Coffee heat rising

Gasoline Costs Putting a Crimp on Life

{sigh} I had to turn down an invite to meet SDXB and NG in the West Valley on Friday. They want to go to some goofy event at the Ben Avery Range where enthusiasts of antique guns get dressed up in Wild West clothes. I’m sure it’ll be fun, but I just can’t afford the gasoline to drive out there.

Gas is now over $3.25 a gallon here. I paid $3.29 for an emergency purchase, shelling out $15 to get to where I needed to go before I could afford to fill up the tank. When this month’s budget cycle restarted, on Monday, Costco was charging just $3.11 at the outlet where I filled up; that racked up $40.

I’ve budgeted $100 a month for gasoline, but that would normally cover only trips to and from the college and the four trips to Scottsdale I have to make each month. But this week I’ve had an extraordinary number of schleps to the East Valley: Earlier this week to Scottsdale Fashion Square to pick up a little ottoman I’d ordered months ago from Crate & Barrel; then today to the Mayo at 140th Street and Shea, an unholy long drive that will be stretched because I have to come back by way of McDowell Road, many many miles south of Shea Boulevard; then out to Scottsdale again tomorrow to give a dog & pony show to my business group, then race to the client’s to pick up some work, then fly back up to the campus at 32nd Street and Union Hills.

Ugh. Most of today and tomorrow will be spent driving, and I’m guessing all those junkets will burn half to three-quarters of a tank of gas.

This morning’s journey to the Mayo will take place during the darkest rush hour (driving into the sun, naturally), and so hypermiling will be pretty much out of the question. In a culture where normal people charge up to signals at 45 mph and then jam on the brakes at the red light, drifting toward a light with your foot off the gas freaking drives your fellow homicidal roadhogs screaming insane.

Some of our fellow citizens around here are literally homicidal, so one has to be careful.

You’ll recall “hypermiling” from the 2008 run-up in gas prices, right? The idea is to get around using as little gas as possible by applying an array of conservation techniques to your car and driving habits:

Try to avoid applying the brakes any more than absolutely necessary. Watch the traffic flow ahead and, when red lights start to glow, coast to decelerate. Try to reach traffic stopped at the light as it’s beginning to move, so you don’t have to start up from a dead stop.

Accelerate from a stop slowly. It’s a car, not a jackrabbit.

When starting from a dead stop, allow the car to idle forward for a second before stepping on the gas.

Use the cruise control to maintain speed on the freeway and on steadily moving surface streets, and use it to accelerate and decelerate. Use the “coast” and “acc” functions to slow and speed gently. Try to keep your foot off the gas pedal as much as possible. But n.b.: don’t use cruise control on an uphill grade.

When approaching a grade, speed up a little (stay sane about this) to build momentum; then allow the car to slow as it climbs. Use the downhill grade to get back up to your cruising speed before resuming the cruise control.

Never drive faster than 60 mph on an urban freeway. Try to keep your speed at around 55 mph. Stay in the slow lane and take it easy.

If it looks like you will have to stand for more than 30 seconds (for example, at a long stoplight, in a gas station line, at a railroad crossing), turn off the engine.

Using these techniques, I’ve managed to extract about 25 mpg from my aged Toyota Sienna. That’s not bad, since it normally makes about 16 mpg in the city, and maybe 20 on the open road. But it’s still expensive to drive to Hell and back every day.

The real trick to hypermiling? Stay out of your car!

😉

Not all Costco gas is equal

The other day while I was at Costco topping off my gas tank with the last gasoline priced under $4 in the future history of humankind, SDXB happened to go into the Costco on his side of town for the same purpose.

He paid $3.86 a gallon.

Say what? I paid $3.93 a gallon: a seven-cent-a-gallon difference! Same day, same time of day, same retailer.

Only difference as far as we can tell is the demographics. My Costco is a ghetto store that serves a downscale clientele in a tough part of town. His Costco, located on the booming westside, caters to the upper middle class and a large, relatively affluent retirement community.

Why, one might ask, should low-income customers have to pay seven cents a gallon more than people who can afford an extra ding at the pump? Beats me. Only thing I can figure is Costco must figure us pore folks are too dumb to know better, too lazy to drive across town to get a better price, or too broke to run our cars far enough to get out of the ‘hood.

This has long been so of grocery store prices: they’re always higher in areas where many of the customers don’t own cars. A friend worked as the manager of a ghetto grocery store, and he reported that they jacked up prices across the board because they had a captive audience of people who either could not or would not drive further afield to buy food and household products. Maybe Costco does the same.

Message: If you live in a downscale area, consider driving to a more affluent district to seek better prices.

4 Comments left on iWeb site

BeThisWay

I noticed that same thing about grocery stores long ago.Touristy areas also always charge an arm and a leg, too.

It’s good to know, though, while planning your purchases. I often bring non-perishables on vacation just to avoid that type of gouging as much as possible.And if you need gas and are going to see SDXB or have to be in the other Costco area anyway, you can do your fill-ups there.

Tuesday, June 10, 200808:38 AM

Karen

A Costco representative came to my business awhile back to sell memberships, and she they do price the gas individually.Basically, people go out in the morning in the immediate area and compare the local prices so they can price just below all of them.
But as some areas are more expensive than others, two Costcos in my city that are 30 miles apart will definitely have different prices.
Needless to say, I go to the “ghetto” Costco when I need gas.:-)

Thursday, June 12, 200807:27 AM

Karen

P.S.I realize this is the opposite than what you experienced, but it may have also been timing.
I’ve gone to fill up twice in one day for our second car at Costco, and paid a different price!

Thursday, June 12, 200807:30 AM

vh

It’s true that in general gas prices are lower on the westside. That may account for the difference.

But we pay dues for the privilege of spending our money at Costco. That should buy us consistent and fair pricing across the board–not a gouge because we live in a downscale neighborhood a few miles away from a different neighborhood in the same city. That’s unfair and unreasonable.

SUV-mania persists

Gas was $3.57 a gallon at Costco yesterday afternoon, when I stopped by on the way home from work to pay our annual dues. Having heard during the morning commute that the average price is now $3.95, that sounded like a bargain, so I decided to top off the tank.

Lines were out to the street at every pump. Fifteen people were stacked up ahead of me, and I may have been the only person there who turned off the ignition while standing. Admittedly, it was a warm day and sitting in the car with no air conditioning was a little uncomfortable-far from unbearable, but not exactly brisk and cool. Most people let their engines idle, burning gas for the ten minutes or so it took to crawl up to a pump.

Directly in front of me was a brand-spanking-new, shiny Toyota Sequoia, dealer’s paper license still in the plate-holder. The thing is the size of a Sherman tank! Its 273-horsepower 4.7-liter V-8 must get all of ten gallons to the mile. Toyota must be giving the things away-surely the only reason anyone would buy such a behemoth would be a price tag somewhere near gratis. When it finally lumbered up to the pump, what should climb out of the passenger’s seat but a vast woman with Mma Ramotswe‘s “traditional build.” She must have weighed over 200 pounds…and her gentleman friend was proportionately well fed. Big car for big folks: the springs on a beast like that should hold up under their weight, anyway.

As I stood in line breathing exhaust fumes, I counted 10 SUVs and pickups and 5 regular passenger cars. Most of the SUVs were late models. None of the sedans were low-mileage vehicles.

Pickup trucks make some sense: they’re designed to carry cargo and most people who own them use them for exactly that. Being trucks, they ride like a truck, and so it’s unlikely that many folks choose to buy them for the around-town family ride. And I can understand how you would hang on to a gas guzzler despite high fuel prices-I sure can’t afford to trade in my 2000 Sienna yet. But to go out and buy a brand-new gigantic SUV that gets 13 to 19 miles a gallon, at a time when gas is headed north of $4.00 a gallon? Clearly, market forces are not discouraging Some People’s Kids from consuming large amounts of gas and pushing the prices up for the rest of us.

Less than a third of a tank cost me what a whole fill-up used to cost, just a few months ago.

IMHO, it’s time for some legislation, and not just in leading-edge California but nationwide. We need to do more than just “encourage” people to buy fuel-efficient vehicles by offering a few lagniappes such as small tax breaks and license plates that let you drive in the HOV lane. We need to make it against the law to sell a passenger vehicle that gets less than 30 miles per gallon. Period. Force manufacturers to take that junk off the market, and force used-car dealers to quit peddling the trade-ins.

And if you can’t fit into a Matrix or a Camry hybrid, folks, maybe it’s time to go on a diet.