Driving costs going up

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 6, 2011

North Carolina motorists can expect to pay more than ever to drive this year.
The biggest contributor to the state’s increased driving costs since AAA Carolinas began monitoring in 2001 are pump prices, currently 30 percent higher than last year.
In addition, the average costs for a new vehicle and insurance have both steadily climbed upward in recent years.
Motorists can expect to pay an average 66 cents per mile in 2011, if gasoline prices remain steady at $3.62 per gallon. This is 6 cents per mile higher than in 2010 and 4 cents higher than during the last gas spike in 2008.
The owner of an average sedan in the state driving 15,000 miles a year can expect to pay $9,866 to drive based on current prices, compared to $9,060 last year.
“Gas prices have a ripple effect that we all feel in our pocketbooks,” said Dave Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “At a time when many Carolinians are still struggling financially, the cost of driving is at its highest level in at least a decade.”
The average pump price for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline is 86 cents more than last year’s $2.76 and 37 cents higher than the average price in 2008.
Rising prices for new automobiles and insurance premiums also contribute to the higher annual costs. The average 2011 model year sedan has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $23,099, compared with $22,070 last year. The average premium for auto insurance is $600 compared with $589 last year.
The total costs include insurance, maintenance, gasoline, tires, taxes, registration, depreciation and finance charges, based on driving 15,000 miles a year. The most expensive ownership cost per mile is 28 cents for depreciation based on 18 percent per year for a new 2011 model year automobile.
AAA compared the cost of vehicles in five separate categories, small, medium and large sedans as well as SUVs and minivans. The cumulative final estimate in this release is based on an average of the three sedan categories.
Minivan costs increased the most, rising to an average of $11,228 a year to own and operate, more than $1,200 higher than last year.
AAA’s analysis uses the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) revised fuel-economy estimates intended to better reflect “real world” conditions as opposed to laboratory tests.
“Minivans fared worse in this report due to their low fuel economy and significant increases in their starting prices, compared with SUVs,” said Parsons.
A national pamphlet, “Your Driving Costs,” is available through AAA Carolinas by calling 704-569-7883. The pamphlet provides information on the costs associated with owning and operating a vehicle nationally.
To get the best gasoline mileage, AAA recommends:
• Cool the pedal. Your gas mileage is cut by 10 percent for every 5 miles per hour over 65; drive a safer 65 mph rather than 75 mph and save money.
• Let your car breathe. A clogged air filter can cut mileage by 10 percent, a faulty oxygen sensor by up to 40 percent.
• Take the junk out of the trunk. Having an extra 100 pounds in the trunk can cut fuel economy by about 1 percent.
• Check the pressure. For every three pounds below your tires’ recommended pressure, fuel economy drops about 1 percent.
• Consolidate trips, such as grocery shopping, medical appointment and picking kids up from school.
• Search out the cheapest gas prices along your daily commute route.
Off-brands often have lower prices than major brands.
• Use cruise control whenever possible for highway trips to maintain steady speed and achieve the best fuel economy.