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Fuel-Efficient Doesn’t Always Mean Cost-Effective

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s hard not to notice that gas prices are on the rise, again.

Around the Twin Cities, prices range between $3.49 and $3.59 a gallon.

The average for the state is $3.50, a little less than the $3.64 national average.

If these numbers have you thinking about a new, fuel-efficient ride, dealers say you might want to do the math.

Most people buy cars based on their lifestyle.

“We have a family of 3 and now we’re expecting another, so this is the right car for us, an SUV,” says Sankar Jena, who was shopping Friday at the Toyota dealership in Bloomington.

For others, lifestyle can get crimped when you’re short on cash.

“I want a lower gas mileage, period,” says Lorraine Brasket another shopper.

This isn’t the first time car dealers have seen buyers come in once fuel prices go up.

“The first time I think it hit 4 bucks a gallon, we saw a fair number of people panic and trade in big SUV’s for small fuel-efficient cars,” said Doug Sprinthall of Walser Automotive Group. “As quick as gas went up, it went back down in that fall, then people wanted their SUV’s back — that’s a really expensive way to shop for cars.”

Even if you’re sold on getting a new car, Sprinthall says look at all the numbers and what you’ll use the car for.

“There’s a $6,000 or $7,000 difference between a Corolla and a Prius, so you have to figure out how expensive you think gas is going to be and how much driving do you do,” Sprinthall said.

Kelly Blue Book says the average consumer will spend just $11.50 more per week if gas prices go from 3.60 to 4.60 a gallon, but even that can add up.

That price hike will hit hard for people like Jamie Sibley, who drive 20,000 miles a year (84 miles a day).

“I fill up once every four days,” Sibley said.

She bought a new, fuel-efficient car Friday.

“I wasn’t even looking at a Honda until I was steered toward it and then saw that 35 miles per gallon sticker,” Sibley said.

The Honda made the most dollars and cents in the long run.

Dealers also say to check your trade-in. Used cars are still pulling in big numbers.

Not looking for a new car, but want to find the cheapest gas?

Experts say track prices on your phone using apps like Gasbuddy or Cheap Gas and travel with cash.

Gas stations usually advertise prices for cash paying customers, if you use a credit card you’ll likely pay 10 cents more per gallon.

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