Wikinvest Wire

Fifty Dollar Fill Ups

Monday, August 22, 2005

Gas prices have gone up sufficiently in the last week or so that we can now call it at $2.80 per gallon for regular gas in this part of California. That means that it's once again time to update the California SUV Fill Up Index. This index was first published in this post from about ten days ago, and we'll continue to provide an update with each 10 cent increase at the pump - at least until we start getting hate mail from flustered SUV owners.

The list has been expanded a bit to include some other SUV models, so if you felt left out last time, maybe now you can see how your SUV ranks with the others. A fuel economy column has also been added. If you want to have some fun, try finding out what kind of mileage you get for the SUVs which have NA in the Mileage column below. Apparently, if a vehicle is over 8500 pounds (yes, that would be over four tons), then fuel economy ratings are not required and buyers are left to figure this out on their own before buying one of these - either that or trust an SUV salesman who has little interest in providing bad news.

Here's the updated chart:

We've added a blue line to the chart to demarcate fill up costs above and below $75. Since prices will have to rise to over $3.00 per gallon to see vehicles crossing over the red line into the $100 fill up range, the next movement will come around the $75 mark.

It's hard to imagine paying $75 to fill up a Toyota, but with the next update, that's where the Sequoia will be. Just a wild guess here, but maybe Toyota's Sequoia production line will not be quite so busy in the coming years as it has been in recent years.

Of course, oil could drop back down to $30 or $40 a barrel and then we can all resume the "non-inflationary prosperity", to which we have all become accustomed. We'll see.

Gas Lines at Costco and Fifty Dollar Fill Ups

While waiting in line to purchase gas at Costco over the weekend, watching the gentleman in front of us squeezing the handle six or eight times to finish dispensing what turned out to be a neat $50.00 load of gas into a small truck, a feeling of first wonder, then trepidation overcame us. Just how much was it going to cost to fill up our Dodge Dakota which has provided so much enjoyment on frequent camping and hiking trips into California's Sierra Nevada mountains. It's used sparingly around town, so it's been a few weeks since we last added gas, and prices have gone up.

The answer would soon come.

At the time we didn't know how large the tank was (turns out it is 22 gallons), and the gas light had just illuminated, so there was danger to be sure. At Costco, regular gas was priced at $2.679 (why the tenth of a cent, still?), which was the usual 10-20 cents lower than most nearby Chevron and Mobil stations. So, after pondering the previous truck owner’s fuel purchase, we began filling the tank and waited impatiently for the numbers on the display to stop.

[If gas prices continue to rise, someone should really look into slowing the rate at which fuel is dispensed - watching the fuel purchase amount while dispensing gas at today's prices gives you that same uneasy feeling you get when watching the tenths-of-a-mile digit on your odometer when doing 85 miles an hour on the way to Las Vegas - it is very unsettling when the numbers are increasing so fast].

So, as the display raced into the high forty dollar range - 47, 48, 49 - our first fifty dollar fill up seemed assured. But, like some kind of intervention from above, the pump handle clicked off, and the display stopped - $49.59.

We didn't top it off.

In the future, we plan to fill up more frequently. If gas prices continue to rise, perhaps we can maintain our own personal illusion of "non-inflationary prosperity" if we never let the tank get below 1/4 full. That would translate into roughly a 30 cents a gallon "buffer", postponing the day of routine $50 fill ups for our truck.

Come to think of it, if gas prices really get out of hand, we'll just reset the mark to 1/2 full, then 3/4 full, if necessary.

We recommend other truck and SUV owners do the same.


Anonymous said...

Wife has a Yukon Denali. 13 city if you inflate tires properly, and don't 'gun it' Those mileage claims are false. Avg is 11-12 city, 14-15 hwy.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I feel ripped off. Where's my Toyota RAV4 on the fill-up index?

I know, I know: It only has a 12 gallon tank, and it's supposed to get 26 on the highway going downhill with a tail wind.

But I did spend almost $30.00 on a tank of gas at my local Valero this weekend. Doesn't that count for something?

Anonymous said...

On an unrelated topic, you might want to take a look at this weekend's LA Times Magazine, where there is an article about wedding planners. It also describes a wedding between a mortgage banker and student who is studying to be a teacher. The way it was described, the wedding seemed like a standing tribute to excess consumption, yet the wedding planner interviewed in the article said it was not anything particularly out of the ordinary. The article describes in detail all the little "extras" that made their wedding so special and contrasted the enourmous expense and care that went into the planning of the wedding with the declining significance of marriage in our society. The groom and the bride's father split the bill, which came in at $120,000, according to the article.

I wonder how much of that tab was borrowed and what effect Greenspan's montary policy has had on size and expense of weddings.

ajn said...

I have an Acura MDX ... the EPA is wrong.. It is just to heavy to get good City mileage. Although Highway mileage is good.

City is more like 15.
Highway at 60 MPH is like 28.

We don't drive it much (5k a year).

Anonymous said...

I would like to see the same chart but using those big diesel pusher motor homes with a small car in tow. Drove 50 miles today and saw lots of motor homes on the road. Also saw lots of trucks pulling 5th wheels. Those driving those gas guzzlers don't care how much it cost, as long as they get to park at some RV park and look at each other.

Anonymous said...

It seems your chart just shows vehicles with the biggest tanks.

Might be nice to sort by gasoline cost per mile instead, and add an average sedan and an average economy car for comparison.

cm said...

anonymous @ 4:23 PM: While gasoline cost per mile is a useful indicator, you may be surprised that it's only a fraction of total cost over the life of the car, even at today's gas prices. Add in oil changes, maintenance, repairs, insurance, new tires and brake pads (replaced at safe intervals, not when they are about to give out!), depreciation, etc.

I did the calculation some time ago, and if memory serves, the usual business mileage reimbursement rate (around 35c/mi) was rather on the low end of the actual cost at $1.50-1.70 (?) per gallon, at around 10,000 miles per year, which may be low-balled.

Anonymous said...

This is America, an affluent place, especially along the coasts. We can still afford to fill our tanks. The guy driving the gas guzzler is probably on at least a $3500 monthly budget. He's probably got an SUV and a sedan. If it gets too painful, he starts driving the sedan more. In the big picture, it's not that significant.

What I really worry about is the extra $20-30 per month getting into the pockets of extremist leaning religious zealots in oil-rich countries who will plan the next 9/11. That will kill the economy, not $3.00 gas.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand the mentality of people who get all worked up about what other people spend their money on. This guy Tim makes smug little cracks about "flustered SUV owners" - news to Tim: the vast majority of SUV owners don't really care if they have to pay another $15 when they fill up. It's really quite inconsequential. If you want to conserve gas, do it yourself on your own time - buy a Prius or something.

Anonymous said...

This is satire. Tim is always smug, but he's not worked up like you seem to be. And it's not just about the extra money at the pump, it's about what Americans believe is their birthright to overconsume and the place of an overconsuming U.S. economy that keeps going deeper and deeper into debt in a changing world.

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