Today, the national average for a gallon of regular gas is just four cents more than it was on April 24. Prices seem to be leveling off, but they remain about $1.06 higher per gallon than this time last year, according to the federal government. We’re all experiencing pain at the pump, but some have it worse than others. Hawaii and Alaska have the highest averages because transporting fuel there is expensive. Even on the mainland, the difference between the highest and lowest state average gas prices is almost 53 cents, according to AAA. Where you live tends to dictate whether you should take the bus or fill up your gas-guzzler.
Worst Place to Drive a Gas-Guzzler: Connecticut
If you’re driving up the East Coast, fill your tank before you get to Connecticut. The average price for a gallon of regular-grade gas was $4.18 on May 24, and if you drive a premium-fuel drinker like a Mini Cooper, you’ll pay $4.44 per gallon.
Connecticut is a small state, so if that’s where you live, it might be worth your time to drive to New York or Rhode Island for cheaper gas. Websites like GasBuddy.com will not only tell you where to find the cheapest gas in your area, but how much it will cost to get there and whether the trip is worth the fuel savings. For instance, if you drive a 2007 Toyota Camry with an automatic transmission and live in North Stonington, Conn., your 15-minute trip to get gas in Ashaway, R.I., will cost you about $2.60 in gas, according to GasBuddy. To save money, you need to save at least 14 cents per gallon. Since the average gas price is $4.18 in Connecticut and $3.96 in Rhode Island, you’ll probably save about $1.36 overall after factoring in the cost of the trip. If the stations in your area don’t offer enough of a discount, or if the $1.36 you’ll save isn’t worth the 30 minutes you’ll have to drive, it makes sense to stay in your town.
Worst Place to Drive a Diesel: California
Penny-pinching Californians may want to pass on turbodiesel options in favor of traditional hybrids, since California has the nation’s highest diesel prices of $4.41 per gallon. The state’s strict environmental regulations add to fuel costs, and since it’s farther from the Gulf Coast and the Middle East, gas prices grow even higher, according to the EPA. High diesel prices mean that opting for a fuel-sipping diesel like the Audi A3 TDI may not be the best way to save money. If you buy an Audi A3 TDI, you’ll get a combined fuel economy of 34 mpg, costing you about $0.13 per mile at these diesel prices. However, if you wait for the Toyota Prius V wagon, slated to arrive in U.S. dealerships early next year, you’ll get a combined fuel economy of 42 mpg and pay about $0.10 per mile, since an average gallon of regular gas in California costs $4.10. Assuming you drive about 15,000 miles annually, the Audi will cost you $1,950 yearly while the Prius will drink $1,500 worth of fuel. You’ll save about $450 per year by opting out of the diesel.
Best Place to Drive a Gas-Guzzler: South Carolina
Although gas prices are rising for everyone, South Carolinians have it good compared to people living in Connecticut and California. A gallon of gas costs $3.60 on average there, a price some places haven’t seen in months. South Carolina is closer to the Gulf of Mexico than most of the country, so it’s easier for South Carolina to get shipments. This proximity helps to keep prices down in South Carolina. So, if you’ve been looking for a place to go off-roading with your four-wheel drive Ford Expedition, you might want to consider South Carolina.
Best Place to Drive a Diesel: Missouri
Missouri has the honor of having the lowest diesel prices in the country, with an average price of $3.82 per gallon. Truckers taking Interstates 44 or 70 will be glad to hear these numbers, as will anyone who opts for a diesel engine in their pickup. Though it’s still expensive to take a truck to the pump, costing about $137.52 for every fill-up of a Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD with a diesel engine, that’s still about $21.24 less than it would cost in California. Plus, the U.S. Energy Information Agency predicts that later in the year, fuel prices will drop slightly, revising the nation’s diesel average of about $4.05 down to about $3.89. While that predicted average for 2011 is 90 cents higher than 2010’s average, any decrease is good news.
If you’re thinking about buying a pickup, but dropping $140 every time you visit the pump sounds crazy to you, you could consider a hybrid pickup like the GMC Sierra Hybrid. While it doesn’t have anything near the capabilities offered by the diesel-powered Silverado HD, it gets great gas mileage for its size and still offers plenty of utility for most buyers. While the diesel Silverado HD costs about 20 cents per mile in purely highway driving, Missouri’s average of $3.65 means that the Sierra Hybrid can travel a highway mile for about 17 cents. If you drive 15,000 highway miles per year, you’ll pay at least $3,000 to keep your Silverado HD gassed up, but only $2,550 for the Sierra Hybrid’s fuel. In this case, even though diesel is cheap in Missouri, you’ll still save $450 per year by opting for the hybrid.