Dear Driving for Dollars,
In an article explaining the new 35.5 mpg CAFE fuel economy standards, you (and other sources) reported that the government projects the standard will add $1,300 per car, which will be recouped by “most people” within a few years. What if gas prices increase to $4 or $5 per gallon? Then who wins?
— Jay

Dear Jay,
The $1,300 increase that the government estimated is an average for all vehicles, and automakers will most likely raise prices of each model in their fleets by varying amounts. Similarly, the time frame to recoup the extra cost assumes that drivers travel an average of 12,000 miles annually. So while these averages are a good point of reference, they likely aren’t accurate for the actual driving experience that many people will have.

Gas prices will most likely be substantially higher by then, so it’s conceivable that $4 per gallon gas could be the norm by 2016. The higher gas prices go, the quicker each car owner will recoup the additional cost of the vehicle, and it will be even faster if he or she drives a lot of miles annually.

If you have a car question, e-mail it to us at Driving for Dollars.