A plunge in the price of gasoline over the past six months has drastically changed the result of the calculation new car buyers and drivers perform every week: How much is it going to cost me to fill this thing up?
The national average price of gasoline Monday was $2.13 a gallon, according to AAA, after falling for a record 109 days in a row. Six months ago it was $3.63 a gallon.
That Chevy Tahoe you were eyeing will cost $39 less to fill up than it did in July. The Honda Fit now costs you just $23 to fill the tank. Maybe you can afford to throw in the booming premium stereo.
For hybrid cars or plug-in electric vehicles, though, cheaper gas means it will take much longer for fuel savings to make up for the extra up-front cost of a car with a big battery.
Here are some examples:
Fuel tank: 26 gallons
Fill-up cost 6 months ago: $94.38
Fill-up cost now: $55.38
Fuel tank: 23 gallons
Fill-up cost 6 months ago: $83.49
Fill-up cost now: $48.99
Dodge Grand Caravan
Fuel tank: 20 gallons
Fill-up cost 6 months ago: $72.60
Fill-up cost now: $42.60
Fuel tank: 17 gallons
Fill-up cost 6 months ago: $61.71
Fill-up cost now: $36.21
Fuel tank: 10.6 gallons
Fill-up cost 6 months ago: $38.48
Fill-up cost now: $22.58
Volkswagen Jetta TDI (diesel)
Fuel tank: 14.5 gallons
Fill-up cost 6 months ago: $56.41
Fill-up cost now: $43.51
Approximate price premium: $4,300
Annual fuel savings based on July gas price: $534
Payback years: 8.1
Annual fuel savings based on current gas price: $313
Payback years: 13.7
Approximate price premium, including electric vehicle tax credit: $7,330
Annual gasoline savings based on July gas price: $796
Payback years: 9.2
Annual gasoline savings based on current gas price: $281
Payback years: 25.8
Sources: Auto company websites, AAA, Department of Energy.