Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gas "freak out price" different for small car buyers?

The Truth About Cars—one of my favorite blogs—has an article about what your "freak out price" is when it comes to gasoline. The gentleman they interviewed said he thinks it's about $4.50 a gallon for regular unleaded.

This got me thinking about what my freak-out price would be. I've paid as much as $5.00/gal along the remote California coastline in 2008. That was pretty darn high, but I was driving a Yaris, and still didn't cost me $50 to fill up (close, though). While $50 is a lot to fuel up a Yaris (and considering how cheap gas used to be it is), most other vehicles will cost far more. Having owned and reviewed vehicles that take premium fuel, I know it's that much more painful for owners of cars that require high-octane go juice, or worse, large diesel trucks with 35 gallon tanks.

But do owners of fuel-efficient cars feel the pain at the pump as much as those driving cars that only get 20 MPG? Since most people who buy small cars still do so because of price (overall price and associated costs, such as fuel economy), perhaps the pain is the same. Then again, there's the argument that if you can afford a car that gets 15 MPG, you don't worry about fueling it up.
For me, $5.00 is harsh, but since my daily drivers (a Suzuki SX4 and a Toyota Yaris) get between 25 and 39 MPG regularly (respectively), a $40–$45 fill still isn't crippling. However, I think my threshold isn't far past that. If gas got above $5.00/gal., I'd likely be more concerned.

Then again, that fuel spike in the mid-to-late 2000s is what started the small car movement again in the U.S.


Brian said...

My "freakout price" is somewhere above $6.00. When I had to send my 1988 Lincoln to the junkyard and I bought a Yaris, I figured that gas would have to rise that high for me to be spending as much in the Yaris as I was in the Lincoln when gas was $3.00.

Draw2much said...

When it costs $40 to fill up my 10/11 gallon Fit I will start getting cross. >:(