Turn on the TV and you’ll see that CNN is keeping a running count on the number of days in a row that the price of gasoline has fallen. At last count, it was more than 30 days, and the price of a gallon of regular is now about $3.70 on average nationwide.
Encouraging, yes, but the fall has not happened as quickly as the rise, so consumers are right to still be concerned.
There’s another trend that may help consumers at the pump, and that’s a subtle turn away from premium-grade gasoline by automobile manufacturers — mostly Ford and General Motors — and an even greater shift among consumers.
Until the gas price explosion of 2008, manufacturers were eager to tout more horsepower for their vehicles in part by tuning the engines to get maximum performance using premium-grade gasoline.
This grade of gas generally rates at 91 to 93 octane (versus 87 octane for regular) and costs 20 cents to 30 cents more a gallon.
Overall, about 62 percent of all new cars come with recommendations that owners pump premium for maximum performance, up from less than 50 percent of cars in 2002.
Yet there are indications that drivers are forgoing the added boost of premium and
running regular or 89-octane mid-grade fuel instead. Demand for premium at the pump has fallen more than 50 percent in the last 10 years.
This year, Ford is touting that all its vehicles — save perhaps the ultra high-performance
Mustangs — can run on regular fuel.
And even though all BMWs sold in the United States come with a “premium recommended” sticker, the company acknowledges that all will run on 87 regular accompanied by a slight drop in performance.
In the days before fuel injection, many drivers stepped up to premium gas as a way to prevent what is commonly called “engine knock”. The knocking sound — think of acorns rattling around in your clothes dryer — comes from premature detonation in the cylinders.
Premium fuel, which is more resistant to the conditions that cause knocking, can help eliminate the problem, especially in carbureted cars or cars with high mileage and deposits on the intake and exhaust valves.
But most modern cars have knock sensors built into their computer controls that regulate when the spark fires in the cylinder. This helps eliminate the problem. Those knock sensors can also detect when a lower grade of fuel is being used and adjust the engine’s performance accordingly.
The only issue for owners is to carefully read their car’s manual for any language that would suggest a warranty issue if the vehicle is run for long periods of time on regular grade as opposed to premium. Few but the most exotic of cars would likely have such exclusions.
So even though gas prices are falling, you may be able to save $5 to $6 per fill-up by switching from premium to regular with only a modest — 5 to10 horsepower — drop in performance.
We are thinking of buying a new car. Would it build my credit if I apply for a car loan separately instead of doing a joint loan?
My husband has a 20- to 30-point higher credit score, so he is getting a better interest rate. But I would still like to apply for a loan in my name as I am thinking that would help build my credit history.
Am I right in assuming that? Or am I wasting a few dollars every month just thinking I am doing the right thing by not taking the car in my husband’s name?
You are absolutely right in trying to build your own credit score. Too many women rely on their husband’s credit history and then discover after a divorce or death that they can’t get credit.
The difference in the interest rate between what you can get jointly or what you can get on your own shouldn’t be that great, given what you’ve said here.
I have a specially equipped wheelchair-accessible vehicle. It is a 2008 Honda Element with a lowered floor, manual foldout ramp, and wheelchair tie-downs. It cost about $20,000 to customize the car, giving it a total price of $42,000.
I want to make sure I have the appropriate insurance coverage for it. I stated the value at $39,000 (the amount I financed) for the insurance company so that the loan would be paid off. I have a standard five-year loan at 6.7 percent through a credit union.
How can I determine what insurance coverage is appropriate so that if it were ever wrecked, I would be covered and wouldn’t lose my shirt? How do I determine the value of a vehicle like this as it ages? I’m also worried I can’t get enough rental car coverage for it, as it costs more than $100 a day to rent a lift-equipped van.
You need to talk to your insurance agent and make sure your policy lists all the enhancements you’ve added. If they aren’t listed — no matter what you stated the value of the car to be — the insurance company may not cover them.
Talk to the agent about gap insurance — not all companies offer it — that would guarantee you replacement value if the vehicle is totaled.
My wife recently bought a car and listed her name as the only owner. She refuses to add my name to the title. We live in Arizona. What can I do, if anything?
If your wife bought the car on her own, she doesn’t have to put you on the title — or even let you drive it.
Depending on the divorce laws in Arizona, however, her car may be considered community property and you might be entitled to a share of it if you ever split.