News stations trying to earn their keep and pump up ratings always focus on "hot button" issues. One such issue is gas prices; television news sources love to broadcast videos of citizens railing about how the evil petroleum companies are robbing them of their hard-earned money. This information warfare campaign takes the focus off of the reality of the situation: gas takes up a relatively small portion of our budgets.
How much does the average American drive? Most resources, including the government's own fuel economy website at http://www.fueleconomy.gov/, generally agree on a number somewhere between 14,000 and 15,000 miles per year. This number fits a suburbanite with an average commute to work. A low mileage driver would be about 10,000 miles or less, while a high mileage driver would drive about 20,000 miles a year or greater.
The next important piece of data is the price of gas. People constantly complain about how the gasoline price rise continually and have reached an absolutely ridiculous level. Statements like these are some of the most ignorant and foolhardy utterances imaginable, because the linear chart of gas prices has generally followed inflation since gasoline as we know it has been sold. In fact, many times gasoline prices ride lower than the inflationary curve! (See chart below from http://www.ridelust.com/wp-content/uploads/wsjchart.jpg)
Complaining about the price of gas, then, is the same as complaining about the price of gas or butter, because they are all increasing at the same rate.
How much, then, does it cost to run a vehicle over a year? This is a factor of gas mileage, the number of miles driven, and the price of gas. Using the 10,000 (low mileage), 15,000 (average mileage), and 20,000 (high mileage) designators, we can introduce our own gas mileage numbers and price to project the data. For the following table, we will assume that the SUV gets 15 miles per gallon, the Large Car gets 22 mpg, the Midsize Car gets 29 mpg, and the Gas Saver gets 45 mpg. The price of gas is set at $2.60, which is a good approximation of gas costs for the year 2010 in the United States. The following table compares all these values and generates a yearly cost for each type of vehicle at a given amount of miles driven assuming that the price of gas is $2.60.
The following data shows just how minute gas really is in financial computations. Even the largest vehicle driven 20,000 miles per year is a mere $289 a month! The most significant money savings can be gotten from regular vehicle maintenance and keeping your vehicle for a long time. Ironically, both of these can increase your fuel economy as well, as gas mileage generally increases as the car ages and is broken in! If you want to save money, don't buy into the gas mileage hysteria and get a Prius. Instead, maintain what you have and purchase new cars less frequently.