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Survey: Drivers Look to New Cars for Gas Savings

New fuel-efficient small vehicles and hybrids are on drivers' minds as high summer gas prices loom.

By Claire_Martin Apr 24, 2012 7:07AM
Fiat 500 Photo by Fiat.Car owners are contemplating buying smaller new vehicles as they brace for gasoline prices to climb even further this summer, according to an online survey by, an automotive-leasing research firm and online marketplace for car leases.

"The survey confirmed exactly what we expected," said Scot Hall of "Gas prices are forcing drivers to look at their options -- when it costs $75 every time you fill your tank, it adds up quickly."

More than three-quarters of survey respondents said they believe gas prices will increase or fluctuate in the coming months. Better gas mileage was a top priority for 77 percent of them. Roughly half said they were thinking about buying a new vehicle, and 33 percent revealed that they're researching hybrid cars. The rest, according to, plan to turn in their current vehicle for a smaller one.

The survey also provided insight into drivers' summer plans: Almost 60 percent said they would change their travel plans and driving habits this year in response to rising gas prices. "The current gas cost situation is clearly impacting the ... spending habits of the American driver," Hall says. 

Indeed, American drivers are pumping less fuel than they have in a decade, according to reporting by The Washington Post. In the Washington, D.C., area, for one, carpooling is on the rise. Elsewhere around the country, fuel-efficient cars are hot items. General Motors said 40 percent of its sales last month were of cars achieving 30 mpg or better -- a new record.

These responses to the high cost of fuel could, in fact, help reverse the trend, according to Steven Mufson of The Washington Post, who writes: "It’s possible that U.S. petroleum use — which is mostly for transportation — has peaked and might decline gradually even as economic growth resumes." 

Apr 24, 2012 8:57AM

This only makes sense if you're planning on buying a new vehicle anyway, or looking for a reason to justify one.


I've done the math - even with my 330 mile per week commute in a 16mpg '97 Jeep, I'd be at least $200 in the hole every month if I were to replace it with a new car that averages 35mpg overall and cost around 18k.  Yes, I'd save quite a bit on FUEL itself, but factor in the payment itself, higher insurance cost, yearly town excise tax (which I don't pay on my Jeep due to it's age), and sales tax upon initial purchase, and the numbers don't lie - sticking with my gas guzzler is saving me money.


Yes, $65 fillups are not fun, but not making a $300 monthly car paymant IS.

Apr 24, 2012 10:55AM

I actually think I drive alot. Not nearly as much as you do apparently, but 330-400 miles a week is still alot to me, and much more than most people I know drive.


I wish I drove less....if I lived in the same town I work in, and not 30 miles away, I'd be looking into getting another gas guzzler for my next vehicle...maybe a Hemi Charger or 300, something like that.

Apr 25, 2012 11:59AM
TXMX, you mileage seems kind of high for the distances you mentioned, but maybe you do  alot of weekend trips.

Remember, my wife and I share the car.  So if I am not using it on the weekends, she often is.  She tends to do everything on the weekends since I have it most of the week.  It gets pretty regular use this way.

Plus the pedestrian infrastructure in my town really stinks.  Anything outside of that grocery store/auto parts store/hardware store circle is unwalkable.

Apr 25, 2012 10:57AM

I guess it depends on where you live. Even at 3-400 miles, I drive much more than most people I know. Most of them live within 5 miles of work, and only do 10k (or less) miles per year. Of course, in this part of New England, everything is close together, and people don't really go anywhere out of town very often.


TXMX, you mileage seems kind of high for the distances you mentioned, but maybe you do  alot of weekend trips.  Myself, all my mileage is during the week, just back and forth to work. Once the weather gets nice, pretty much everything is walking distance from my house, and if it's not, it's within 2 miles, so I might put maybe 4 or 5 miles on in a weekend. I try to do all my errands on the way home from work during the week, and most weekends in the summer I park my car on Fri and don't use it again till Monday morning, unless I need to leave town on the weekends. And sometimes I get the urge to pull the t-tops off the 'Bird and cruise around the beach, and that's about a ten mile round trip. But that's about the extent of my weekend driving most weeks.

Apr 24, 2012 12:47PM
For our family our weekly mileage is around 250-300 miles per week.  100 miles to get to work and back, plus 150-200 doing whatever we may like on the weekends, plus miscellaneous trips around town during the week.  Of course, if you extrapolate 300 miles per week to 52 weeks per year that is 15,600 miles per year.  I believe that is about what the US government says is average for a car to drive per year.

There are some advantages to living in a large city.  My work is 5 miles away, the grocery store is 1/2 mile away, the auto parts and hardware stores are about 1/2 mile away, one mall 4 miles away, another about 6 or 7 miles away, two electronics stores within 5 to 6 miles, and more restaurants within 10 miles than I can shake a stick at.  The longest trip is probably 15 miles to the toy store for my daughter.  It does cut down on the driving miles.

Apr 26, 2012 5:12AM

Yea if you go from a 4000 pound pickup to a 2500 pound car.


I never once claimed that the two vehicles were an apples to apples comparison.  In other posts when I make general claims about diesel savings, I compare two equivalent cars with gas and diesel engines.  However, for my example earlier, I made it perfectly clear that I was comparing my outgoing daily driver to my current daily driver.


But i stil dought the saving you are posting.  You went from what to what with the years made, options on them, mileage, and such then we will truely see what your saying.

Assuming 2,500 miles per month:


'07 Dodge - 14 mpg @ $3.50 per gallon gas = $625 per month


'06 VW - 45 mpg @ $3.60 per gallon diesel = $200 per month

Apr 24, 2012 11:02AM

I actually think I drive alot. Not nearly as much as you do apparently, but 330-400 miles a week is still alot to me,.

I would consider that extremely low mileage.  I actually can't think of too many people who drive that little other then maybe some of my retired friends and family.

Apr 24, 2012 10:34AM

@LS1 Bird,


It all depends on how much you drive.  Since don't drive very much at all, your savings would be smaller each month.


With today's fuel prices, if I was still driving my gas guzzler full time, I would be averaging $625 per month in gas.  Right now, I'm spending right around $200 per month with a diesel driving the same distance.  The savings of $425 per month easily cover the cost of the car. 


Again, if you drove more, it would be a bigger deal for you.  But if you don't drive much, then who cars what kind of mileage your vehicle gets? 

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