Coffee heat rising

What Price Gasoline?

Like everyone else in town, I’ve been putting off buying gas until the last possible minute. Wednesday evening, the Dog Chariot had what looked like a quarter of a tank left. Figured I could get to my Scottsdale breakfast meeting and back to the in-town Costco (cheapest known source of fuel in the city), and so at 6:30 headed east. Interminably east.

By the time I got to lovely mid-town Scottsdale, the gas gauge registered 1/8 of a tank. But the road was slightly inclined, and sometimes (I hoped) the unlevel miniscus in the tank would warp the reading. As I turned onto Scottsdale Road, I noticed a Sinclair station in the AJ’s shopping center at Lincoln and Scottsdale.

Once sprung from the breakfast meeting, I stopped in to pick up a gallon (worth 18 miles), which I knew would carry me into town, where I could fill up at the ghetto Costco.

Pulled up to the pump behind some rich guy who wasn’t even paying attention to how much gas was blasting into his tank, viewed the amazing prices (in Scottsdale gas station owners are not allowed to flaunt their prices with gigantamous roadside signs), backed out, and drove away.

I should’ve known. Sinclair????? There are no Sinclair stations in Arizona. This is some sort of artifact. And what do artifacts cost?

$4.50 a gallon, that’s what artifacts cost.

{gulp!} Could I be reading that right? Surely not. But I wasn’t sticking around to find out.

Drove west, drove west, drove west, drove…until the red idiot light came on, along about 36th street. Spotted a Chevron station at 16th street. Darted in and pumped 1.5 gallons of $3.79 gas. This would suffice to reach the pore folks’ neighborhood.

Drove south drove south drove south drove west some more.

At last I reach familiar territory and whip into the Costco gas station off 19th Avenue and Bethany Home, the lot nearly empty because the store isn’t open at this hour. Usually the line is halfway out to the road.

Hot dang: $3.67!

So it was that, compared to what I would’ve paid if I’d lived in lovely uptown Scottsdale, I saved $12.03 on 14.5 gallons of red-blooded Arabian gasoline.

I reflect: If I had a car that made 35 mpg, such as the Hyundai Sonata, I’d only have to fill up once a month. That would save me $58.72 a month.

Maybe it’s time to trade in the Dog Chariot. Whiz-Bang Financial Manager, having calculated my Vanguard Funds’ cost basis according to my father’s date of death, says I should have to pay zero taxes on the short-term corporate bond fund that was my car-purchase savings while I had a job. He thinks it’s stupid to pay $350 for a new timing belt on an 11-year-old junker (he predicts + + + operating costs). Accountant thinks it’s a toss-up: buy, don’t buy, do what you want…probably doesn’t make much long-term difference.

Hmmm… $58.72 a month = $704.64 a year saved on gasoline.

Cost of new Sonata less trade-in on the junk = around $20,000; 4% of twenty grand (allowable drawdown from invested retirement savings) = $800. Not exactly a toss-up, unless you factor in the $350 for the timing belt plus God only knows how much for other repairs.

Cost of 2011 second-hand Sonata through the credit union’s car-buying service, 22,000 miles: $19,900 – $3,000 = $16,990; 4% of $16,990 = $680. Very probably a positive. It’s not the color I want. It doesn’t have the interior trim I covet. But…there it is.

Still thinking…


Sinclair Oil advertisement, Menard, Texas.Billy Hathorn. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Hyundai Sonata. Shamelessly ripped off the Arizona State Credit Union‘s car-buying site. Click on this and a whole bouquet of pop-unders will populate your computer monitor.

9 thoughts on “What Price Gasoline?”

  1. Nice car!

    Better to strike while the iron is hot…economists say demand is increasing and supplies are decreasing, so if you’re looking to downsize your gas expenditure with a more fuel-efficient car, now is the time.

  2. @ frugalscholar: Right now the lowest rate at my credit union is 3.74% on new cars over 72 or 100 months (depending on the price range). For used cars, the lowest rate is 3.24% for 36 months. Dealers may have better blandishments, though.

    @ Holly: The Sonata has good reviews. I don’t know. I sure do hate to jack up my insurance and registration fees. In AZ registration fees drop with the vehicle’s age, so that just now I can pay it out of pocket. On newer cars, registration fees are just exorbitant; I would have to self-escrow still MORE money out of my fixed income, leaving still LESS for groceries and other necessities.

  3. I thought you were set on the Honda fit? Anyway I have a 99 Sienna and I have already done the timing belt. It has been reliable. I have been a die hard Toyota gal (Once had a Honda) since the 70s. But I have been thinking about the Kia Soul (so ugly they are cute), Kia Rio, Nissan Versa. Love the Honda Fit but it’s way expensive. Also like the Hyundai Accent. Had it as a rental car in Florida.

  4. No offense, but if you’re suffering from the Medicare premium increases (previous post) , I don’t understand how you’re justifying taking on a 6-8 year car loan. A one-time hit of $350 is better than probably close to that monthly for five years. I’m betting Medicare premiums continue to increase, and if you do need to use Part D, that’s another huge chunk of out of pocket expenses. IMHO a Hyundai isn’t a good car to be paying off over that long a term – the people I know who have them haven’t been impressed with how they age – have you checked to see how well they hold their resale value as the years go by?

  5. I’ve been happy with my Hyundai Elantra (the next step down from the Sonata). Consumer Reports has rated the Elantra “best compact sedan” for a couple years’ running. Hyundai claims the 2011 model gets 29 MPG city and 40 MPG highway.

  6. @ valleycat1: Loan? I don’t do car loans. My car savings account has enough to buy a new mid-priced vehicle. The problem is, there’s only enough to buy one more car during my lifetime. If it only lasts 10 years, it’ll need to be replaced when I’m about 76 or 77. At that point, assuming my health has held, I’ll still have another five to seven years of driving time, and I probably will not be able to afford to buy another car at that point in my life. With no real income, I don’t have enough cash flow to rebuild my car savings now, and when I’m too old to teach even part-time and medical bills are through the stratosphere, I’ll be just barely squeaking by.

    So, that one right there is actually a good excuse to hang on to the Dog Chariot until it falls apart, which I’m told will happen in four or five years. An excuse not to, however, is that the tax vacation on capital gains is about to end. If I take that money out of its mutual fund now, I’ll hardly have to pay any taxes on it; if I wait until the DC dies, Uncle Sam could confiscate a substantial part of it, leaving to little to buy a decent vehicle.

    As Carol notes, Consumer Reports does like the Hyundai products. I’ve always loved my Toyotas. However, the company’s recent troubles have really undermined my confidence in the vehicle’s quality — pretty clearly Toyota is going down the same path Detroit took all those years ago. You can tell it by the cheaper trim and shoddier construction as well as by the reports of various mechanical and electronic failures. That’s why I’m open to considering other makes.

  7. @ Doable: they’ve been telling us the price of gas is supposed to drop 50 cents over the summer. That would be grand! But I’ll believe it when I see it. In AZ the add stuff to the gas in the summer months that jacks up the price.

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