05/21/07 — Keeping up with gas price coaster

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Keeping up with gas price coaster

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on May 21, 2007 1:46 PM

With gas prices jumping to $3.26 at some stations around town Friday, the drop back to $3.18 at others on Monday did little to ease the sucking sensation in people's pockets as they stood filling their pumps, watching their hard-earned cash drain away.

"It's still painful," said Aaron Garman as he put $41 into his Ford F-150 pickup truck, getting less than 13 gallons in return at the Comco station on Berkeley Boulevard.

Unfortunately, he continued, between work and his three kids, it's hard to cut back on the amount of driving he does.

"I've got to drive every day," he said.

Others, though, are watching their mileage more carefully.

"I was just thinking as I put my $20 in -- go to work, go straight home for the next two days and maybe this $20 will last me," said Karen Holliday as she filled up her Ford Explorer at the same station.

At $3.18 a gallon, she only got about six gallons worth.

The continuously rising cost, she added, has been enough to make her start thinking about buying something a little more fuel efficient.

And she's not the only one.

According to Tom Crosby, vice president of communications at AAA Carolinas, the average gas price in North Carolina is $3.12 -- only about nickel away from the record highs after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A month ago the average cost was $2.84. A year ago it was $2.80.

"I have a mid-size SUV, and I'm selling it so I can get a four-cylinder. Mine gets 19 miles to a gallon. I want at least 25," Walter Scott said.

Some dealers also are noticing that downsizing trend.

"People are trading in domestics for Toyotas, because they're more fuel efficient. We traded at least 15 SUVs last month," said Joey Gabarda at Goldsboro Toyota.

But there are still those people who are willing to open their wallets a little further, as long as they can ride in comfort.

"It's not affecting us," said Mac Macanas at Goldsboro Chevrolet. "General Motors' SUV and truck sales haven't changed.

"We love our comfort. Our only sale today (Friday) is a Silverado, which gets 22 (MPG on the highway) and 16 (MPG in the city). There's been no trading down to four-cylinders. You can be comfortable in a little car, but after 400 miles, people will miss their comfort."

How many people are actually traveling those 400 miles this summer, however, remains to be seen.

"I'm surely not driving to the beach as much (this summer)," Scott said.

And he's not the only one. Others at various gas stations throughout Goldsboro said they, too, might be reconsidering vacation plans.

"There's no doubt it's going to affect some people, the question is how much," Crosby said. "This is new territory."

The good news, though, he added, is that they're not expecting prices to continue to go up through the summer.

"I think they're going to remain fairly steady. I think we're going to hopefully see prices stabilize or drop within the next few months," he said.

But with the Memorial Day weekend fast-approaching, most people are looking more at the immediate future and there might not be too much relief in sight.

"I think we may see another two- to three-cent creep between now and Memorial Day, but hopefully there won't be a big jump," Crosby said.