No, I'm not talking about intestinal gas pain. The price of gasoline averages $4.60 in Ventura County today, up from $4 just one month ago and $3 a year ago. What can you do to ease the financial pain?
Get a New Plan, Stan
The best thing you can do of course is drive less. Try carpooling to work, telecommuting now and then if possible or better yet, live close to work and try bicycling! I know some people that commute to downtown Los Angeles from Thousand Oaks. This 90 mile daily round-trip trek costs roughly $15/day just in gas at today's gas prices, ignoring added wear and tear on the car and time consumed behind the wheel.
Hop on the Bus, Gus
For local trips in Thousand Oaks, check out Thousand Oaks Transit, which has 4 bus routes that for $1 (for adults; $.75 kids and $.50 seniors) that can take you around the area from Dos Vientos to as far as Costco in Westlake Village. I will admit that I have not tried the bus as it only runs on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. but it looks like a great alternative to driving. Other transportation options from Thousand Oaks to other locations are nicely summarized here.
Two Chores in One Trip, Chip
Time to start thinking in terms of gasoline cost per mile. At $4.60 per gallon and assuming 25 miles per gallon, every mile costs you nearly 20 cents just in gas. So if you have 2 trips to make from Thousand Oaks to Oxnard, how can you combine them into one to save yourself $8? Can you run those 3 local errands in one trip and save yourself 10 miles of driving, or $2? The savings will add up if you think in these terms.
Don't be so Annoyed, Roy
Don't drive like a maniac...fast starts, acceleration and stopping. Intuitively we all know this is not good for your MPG (or your sanity). And don't carry tons of stuff in your car, as the extra weight can have a 1-2% impact on MPG, which means 5 to 10 cents more per gallon. Clean out that car!
Back off the Petal, Gretel
And www.FuelEconomy.gov says gas mileage decreases rapidly after reaching a speed of 60 miles per hour. In fact, at today's gas prices, every 5 MPH over 60 will cost you another 35 cents per mile! Wow! Time to reassess your speed. Tie a helium balloon to your shoe or something!
Just Drop Off the Key, Lee?
It may or may not make sense to trade in a gas guzzler for a car that gets decent gas mileage. You would save tons of money on gas if you traded in your 2004 Chevy Tahoe for a 2008 Toyota Prius ($200 saved per month if you drove 1,000 miles per month). But, assuming the Tahoe is running well and not in need of major repair, it might take 5 or 6 years to break even on buying a new car. The math will vary depending on individual circumstances...though I've been crunching numbers for my own situation and as much as I'd like to buy a new car I'm of the "drive it into the ground" mindset.
And Get Yourself Free
Well, free of frequent gas station stops at least. If you really need or just want a new car, then you have the choice of buying a hybrid. A Toyota Prius at 45 MPG is an easy choice and I hear the 2009 Prius will have a "plug-in" option that will increase mileage even more. But choosing a hybrid over a gas car is not a no-brainer yet because many hybrids are currently sold at a substantial premium. For example, the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid sells for at least $7000 more than the full gas version. While the gas mileage is solidly better by 5 to 7 MPG, it would take 6 years or more for most people to recoup this price difference. So crunch your numbers carefully.
My apologies to Simon and Garfunkel.