High Gas Prices and Vehicle Buying Habits

Yesterday I received an email forwarded from an acquaintance regarding an AOL story which references an AutoTrader.com survey. The survey was about at what price per gallon car buyers will significantly consider a vehicle that offers better fuel economy.

The AOL headline read “Car Buyers Won’t Change Habits Until Gas Hits $6.51 A Gallon“. After reading the article I immediately went looking for other views… One blog I found commented how the sensational headline didn’t match the facts of the article, presenting a slated view of the data from survey if one were to stop at the headline.

According to the AutoTrader survey data, fuel would have to be over $6.51 per gallon before 35% of respondents would “seriously consider a vehicle that got better fuel economy”. Another way to look at the article is that nearly two-thirds would seriously consider a vehicle offering better mpg before fuel reached $6.51 per gallon. The AOL article also quotes different experts about citizens already making decisions influenced by the current higher prices, or just getting accustomed to our higher fuel prices.

High Gas Prices, April 2012.

Our Lower Threshold

With our little fleet of vehicles fuel economy has always been important and is tracked with every fill-up, even the motorcycles. This doesn’t mean that we are rabid hyper-milers, but we have always had a healthy awareness of how much fuel we burn and what it costs. Long before fuel reached it’s current high price near $4, fuel economy was a factor when we considered adding or subtracting horsepower in our stable. We like and use trucks and four-wheel-drives, not just because they are cool or became trendy, but to haul and pull things, and to go beyond the blacktop.

I will likely remain a truck guy instead of a car guy until I can no longer afford to operate and enjoy them, or change hobbies and lifestyle. When my wife and I purchased a new pickup last year, fuel economy was certainly a consideration, but not the only deciding factor. While we would have preferred the slightly better mpg possible with a Toyota Tacoma or similar smaller truck over the Tundra that was chosen, the potential fuel economy improvement was not worth the inability to haul and pull larger things, and do big truck work. Added to this preference for full-sized capability is the fact that we already have a mid-sized utility vehicle, another mid-size would be redundant.

Mixed with our 4WDs are two very economical daily-drivers, one two-wheeled, one four, and the four-wheeler gets about the same (sometimes better) mpg as the moto. As shared recently in the TDI Mileage Test post, our little VW Golf diesel is a very valuable daily driver. In recent years we’ve been casually watching the automotive market to see what we might want to purchase when it’s time to replace the TDI. We have considered some AWD cars, but their fuel economy is typically so much lower than the VW/Audi TDI that they’re not serious contenders for our dollars. We like being road travelers, even in a car, which means keeping at least one very high mpg four-wheeled vehicle in our fleet for daily driving, weekend errands, and car trips is a nonnegotiable.

Fuel prices are already high in my opinion. With a fixed amount of dollars budgeted for fuel each month, higher fuel prices mean driving less, getting better mpg, both, or deficient spending—which is not allowed here.

Where Do You Stand?

What is your number? Are you part of the top third who won’t seriously consider a more economical vehicle until fuel is $6.51 a gallon?

Copyright © 2012 James Langan

10 thoughts on “High Gas Prices and Vehicle Buying Habits

  1. Unless one gets only a few mpg, the recoup of the purchase is rather slow. My number is $10/gallon. By then the truck will be old enough to deem a replacement anyway.

  2. I like to take the Al Gore/Liberal approach. I think everyone should be purchasing new electric vehicles, hybrids, or high fuel economy cars. While I maintain my lavish lifestyle cruising around in my vehicles of choice.

    For me their is no hard number. I will likely always have my Jeep or some 4×4 expedition vehicle. Some people choose to drive hybrids to save money so they can have vacations at fancy resorts and live lavishly in other ways. I choose to vacation in a tent near a trail. That is were I choose to spend my money. Sure gas mileage will play a factor in my next car purchase. But until we start seeing 40-50mpg in 200+hp cars. It doesn’t pay to sell my 10 year old Maxima only to gain 5-10 mpg. I always laugh at people who trade in a 3 year old car to get a new one that gets 3-5 mpg better gas mileage. By the time the gas savings makes up the cost of the trade, they are looking at new cars again. Oh well, they keep the economy going.

  3. I’m reluctant to post a hard target price per gallon that will force us to sell one of our two four wheel drives. The reason being, I don’t know what that “Magical” price would be. I guess I will have to wait and see what price has the biggest impact on our family.

    As of today, petrol is the cheapest at $0.12 cents a gallon in Venezuela. Yes, you read that correctly. While it’s highest is $6.48 cents a gallon in the Netherlands (Facts provided courtesy of CNN/Money maters). Something to think about…

  4. Sometimes there are other solutions such as lowering the water rather than arduously raising the bridge. For example, if our coveted mud terrain tires whack gas mileage by 30% we might want to buy a cheap set of rims and some all season tires to use on pavement where the bulk of the mile accumulate. Over the course of 50k miles the savings in gas ($5/gal+) could pay for the new tires and preserve the MTRs for the off-roading trips. This in turn can stave off the need to downsize from a full-sized 4Runner or Tacoma just because its 18 to 20 MPG is not good enough to survive $6 gas prices.

    • You know I like having some all-terrain tires to go with my muds 😉 But a 30% reduction in fuel economy for mud tires sounds very high.

  5. Fuel economy is a major factor in my daily driver purchases. I drive 300 miles a week, just to the office and back. I typically drive another 100-200 miles a week for work and or/recreation. Most SUV’s are lucky to get 15mpg. That equates to $28,300 a year in fuel (figuring 50 weeks @ 500 miles per @ $4.25/gal). That is serious money. So yeah, we evaluate that a LOT!

  6. my little daily driver already gets 30MPG around town and long before gas is that even more painful figure of 6.51, I would be working on the car to improve that mileage. Long before that number, it would not be the type of vehicle being considered (nowadays, I have not much interest to replace the car, although it is now 12 years old), use of the car would be wholly reevaluated. Driving would be reduced as much as possible. As you can see, that just goes further to hurt the economy, as we won’t be going places as often. One imagines that most other folks will be in the same situation long before that figure is reached. As you said the article is misleading… Leave it to the media to bend things around 😛

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