07/21/08 — Drivers cut back on trips, downsize

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Drivers cut back on trips, downsize

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on July 21, 2008 1:40 PM

Sue Kearney preferred driving her Mercury Mountaineer — it was bigger and had more room for the grandkids — but last summer she faced reality and rising gas prices and traded it in for the more economical Honda Accord.

“I love the SUV. I love being up high,” she said. “We have grandchildren, and it was great for them. But if gas keeps going up like it is, we’re going to stay with what we have got.”

And they’re not the only ones looking for something a little more fuel efficient.

Like the Kearneys, Michelle Daw also traded in her gas-guzzling sports utility vehicle for one that’s not quite so thirsty.

“We had a (Chevrolet) Suburban for 10 years,” she said. “It cost me $120 to fill it up, so we had to do something.

“We traded it in for a Toyota Highlander which costs about half to fill up.”

Gina Poandi said her husband also felt the crunch of having a truck. He no longer drives his Chevrolet Silverado to work.

“We bought a Mazda Miata for him to go to work in,” she said.

Those families aren’t alone.

Darryl Swinson and Kris Carraway of Goldsboro Hyundai and Honda say they have seen many people make the switch to more gas economical cars.

“Trucks have taken a big hit,” Swinson said. “Look at all of these trucks that have been traded in.”

Swinson said he has even seen people trade in large trucks to buy two smaller cars because gas prices are “just getting that ridiculous” and are even causing some trucks to lose their value, putting owners in negative equity situations.

But, he said, Hyundai cars can be a good alternative.

“These are perfect cars because you spend less for it and you spend less on gas,” he said.

So even as gas prices have increased, so have the dealerships’ sales.

“Sales have been on a gradual upward change,” Carraway said.

In particular, Swinson said Hyundai Accents have been really popular the past three or four months and that the Honda dealership can’t keep their Civics — known of their good gas mileage — in stock.

“They can’t keep them. They are sold out everywhere,” he said.

And then there are those people who are foregoing their cars altogether.

Keith Smith used to drive his Chevrolet Silverado to work every day. Now he alternates it with his Honda Goldwing motorcycle.

“I like to alternate,” he said. “I average driving my motorcycle a couple days a week.”

His truck got around 16 miles per gallon and cost $110 to fill up. His motorcycle gets an average of 40 miles per gallon and costs $20 to fill up.

“I might have to start riding my motorcycle every day if gas keeps going up,” he said.

Still, there are some people who are keeping their SUVs and other large vehicles.

Kenny Talton said he is keeping his gas guzzler because it’s paid off.

He would rather pay the bill at the pump instead of having to pay for gas and another car payment.