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Gas Prices Trend Higher

With our vehicle test schedule here at Frugal Driver, we are very aware of the fluctuating pattern of fuel prices. Fuel economy testing requires regular and sometimes daily fill-ups. This past week was telling. The price of regular unleaded shot up more than 30-cents in a matter of five days. Premium fuel is once again over $4 per gallon.

 Regardless of the price fluctuation’s root cause, the end effect is the numbing of consumer reaction and outcry. I remember the conversations across the gas island at my regular station when gas prices topped $3 per gallon. The reaction was even greater when gas first topped $4 per gallon. When consumers cut back on driving and fuel consumption, the price generally retreats, but usually not quite to the same level as was at before the increase. The pattern repeats in a general upward trend until the average consumer now thinks that gasoline prices below a certain threshold like $4.00 seems like a bargain. Over time, the consumer is desensitized to the price at the pump as it edges upward.

As fuel prices reach new highs, vehicle-buying habits certainly change. Fuel economy becomes a priority. Hybrids and fuel-efficient models move quickly. When the market can’t sustain higher prices, however, and prices slump, fuel economy lessons are often forgotten. Vehicle purchases tend to revert back to less efficient models. All the while, the long-term trend is that the price of transportation takes an ever-larger bite out of the household budget.

Some feel that higher fuel prices are a good thing, forcing consumers into more fuel-efficient transportation choices. I’ve never agreed with that stance because high gasoline prices hit lower income consumers the hardest. When the necessary work commute takes an extra twenty bucks each week, many simply must cut back on other essentials. Those living on a very tight budget often can’t afford to trade up to a more fuel-efficient vehicle, and must make do.

As I’ve noted before, my biggest gripe with higher fuel prices are less apparent but have a widespread impact. When the price of fuel goes up, nearly all goods and services will cost more.  Farmers rely on diesel tractors to cultivate and harvest the food we eat. Transporting food and products we use on a daily basis requires diesel fuel. Nearly every product you use each day was moved multiple times by a diesel truck; from moving raw materials to the manufacturer to finished product cycled through the distribution chain, everything becomes more expensive. These are hard costs of doing business that can’t be absorbed and must be passed along to the end consumer in the form of higher prices for the essentials of our modern life.

I am fortunate to test and evaluate some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in the world on a regular basis. As a benchmark, our family go-to vehicle is a 2003 Honda Pilot. The 7-passenger Pilot has been a trusted all-mission transport that simply does everything well. From hauling a pack of home school kids through winter weather conditions to moving our youngest into a college dorm, the Pilot continues to deliver great performance. Now, with over 150,000 miles on the odometer, we continue to average 21 mpg. In the ten years we’ve owned the Pilot, however, the price to fill the tank has more than doubled.  The price of anything we rely on so heavily doubling in one decade is a reality check that can’t be ignored.

 

KIA RIO — All-Season Economy Champ

Kia Rio Winter DrivingFrugal Driver’s initial review of the thrifty little Kia Rio (a 2012 model) was very favorable. We recently had time to put a 2013 Rio 5-Door through its paces and that initial attraction hasn’t faded. This time around, however, the temperatures were considerably colder and we had a chance to drive the Rio in true winter road conditions. Typically, most vehicles experience a noticeable reduction in fuel economy in the cold, especially on snow and ice covered roads. The Kia Rio on the other hand READ MORE »

Volkswagen Promotes Frugal Smiles Per Gallon

 

Being a frugal driver doesn’t mean driving can’t be fun. Volkswagen owners already know this and now they have another way to up the fun factor with the introduction of Smileage.

Volkswagen of America and Google just announced their partnership on “Volkswagen Smileage,” a new social media application built using a suite of Google products and platforms. READ MORE »

Winter Driving Tip – Clear Wheelwells

Winter DrivingWinter driving presents new fuel economy challenges. Colder temperatures generally reduce mpg by a significant amount and snow and ice can add gas mileage robbing conditions. In addition to the potential for wheel spin and added rolling resistance, snowy roads will allow a slushy mix to build up in the vehicles wheelwells. READ MORE »

KIA Optima Hybrid from a Female Perspective

Guest post by Wendy Gregory

For 30 years I’ve driven test vehicles and given my driving impressions in my role as copy editor and corporate officer in our family business, Kaho Media, Inc. As a college student, as I taught cooking and art classes in the community and then as a mom hauling Girls Scouts and groceries I put hundreds of test vehicles through their paces in my daily life. If the hatch dripped rain down my back as I loaded groceries in a downpour, it was noted. If I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the air conditioning without reaching for the owner’s manual, it was passed on in my list of impressions. READ MORE »

Frugal Driver

Frugal Driver is dedicated to the art of doing more on less. It doesn’t matter if you drive an economy car, a big family-sized SUV, or a pickup truck, practicing Frugal Driver techniques will save you money. We don’t mind spending our hard earned cash, we just hate to waste it. At Frugal Driver we have a passion for cars, trucks, driving, and individual mobility . Being a Frugal Driver means we can do more of what we love and appreciate the freedom of personal transportation.
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