For commuters, the only thing that adds up quicker than the gasoline bills are the miles on the odometer.
Several commuters this week said that had them looking at new, fuel-efficient hybrid cars that run on a combination of gasoline and electricity. But most said they hadn't yet been able to bring themselves to buy one of the new-age vehicles.
"I like the idea of them, but they still seem a little cost prohibitive," said Deb Young, a Lawrence commuter.
The question with hybrids is whether the additional purchase price will be offset by savings in gasoline purchases. Here's a look at some of the math behind that analysis using the Toyota Prius, a popular hybrid, and the Toyota Corolla, a similar sized non-hybrid vehicle.
The 2006 hybrid Prius - with a suggested retail price of $21,725 - costs about $7,700 more than the comparable 2006 Toyota Corolla. But the Prius - with highway fuel mileage of 51 miles to the gallon - is 10 miles per gallon more efficient than the Corolla. With gasoline at $2.20 per gallon, a Prius owner would save $105 in gasoline bills for every 10,000 miles driven.
If a commuter put 20,000 miles a year on a car, it would take about 36 years - or about 720,000 miles - for gasoline savings to pay for the additional purchase price. Of course, if gasoline prices increase, so will the annual savings.
But compared to some other larger models, the Prius pays for itself much quicker. For example, the price difference between a Prius and similarly-equipped but larger 2006 Toyota Camry is $3,280. Fuel mileage is 18 miles per gallon better with the Prius. With gasoline at $2.20 per gallon, a commuter who drives 20,000 miles per year would pay for the additional purchase price through gasoline savings in about seven years, or 140,000 miles.