Age Specific Driving Retesting Should Be Required!

I’m sure this isn’t going to be the most popular stance I’ve ever taken, but it’s something that I feel pretty strongly about.  So, don’t automatically close your browser before you hear me out.  In fact, if you disagree, please leave a comment and let me know why.

Senior drivers should be periodically re-tested in order to allow them to keep their licenses. (If you read more, you’ll see I don’t just single out senior drivers).

About a week ago, GasBuddy had a poll up about this topic, which is what got me thinking about where I stood on the issue.  Based on the results of the poll, I feel safe in saying that I’m not alone in where I stand.

Here’s how nearly 17,000 people responded when asked: Should drivers be re-tested to determine driving capability?

  • Yes, periodically after a certain age – 32%
  • Yes, periodically regardless of age – 31%
  • Yes, after an accumulation of moving violations – 28%
  • No, the initial test should be sufficient – 6%
  • Other – 3%

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Cash For Clunkers Ending. Did You Take Advantage?

According to recent data, after spending nearly $3 billion in tax payer dollars (or was it China’s money?), the Cash for Clunkers program has helped Americans buy nearly 700,000 new cars.

While that’s certainly a lot of cars, not to mention a lot of help for the ailing auto industry, it seems as if the program’s reach was pretty narrow.

In order to have been eligible for the Cash for Clunkers program, you needed to trade in a vehicle you’ve owned for over a year that got an EPA estimated combined city/highway gas mileage of 18 mpg or less, and used the $3,500 to $4,500 voucher to buy or “long-term lease” a vehicle that gets between four to 10 mpg higher for the $3,500 credit or more than ten mpg higher for the $4,500 credit.

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Did You Get a Good Deal on Your Car?

Thanks the popular and controversial Cash for Clunkers program, and in spite of “The Great Recession,” many Americans have begun to build up the courage to buy a new vehicle, especially over the past month or two.

With the auto industry suffering from the recession and eager to move cars off lots, there are many good deals to be had.  That being said, with a most new cars costing at least $15,000, it’s not as if people have been, or should go into their next car purchase without having done plenty of research.

Based on recent data, it certainly appears as if many Americans were well informed the last time they walked into a car dealership.

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Has the Economy Changed Your Vacation Plans?

The current recession, which just entered its 21st month and is the longest downturn since World War II, has caused many of us to reevaluate our personal finances.  With unemployment rising and credit still hard to come by, saving money and cutting costs has become a priority for many families throughout the country.

While most of these cost cutting measures haven’t been too drastic (i.e. not going out to eat as much, making fewer impulse purchases, etc.) many of us have had to take things a little further.

One of the bigger “discretionary” expenses for families (and individuals) is the summer vacation.  Whether it’s driving to the beach or flying across country to visit family, when everything’s said and done, a week long summer vacation can cost thousands of dollars.  No matter your financial situation, this is a lot of money.

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Stimulus Not Enough to Jump Start Car Sales

On February 17, President Obama signed a controversial and massive $787 billion economic stimulus package into law, and hailed the action as a stepping stone towards turning the economy around, as it will lower taxes, incentivize home buying and, according to the Administration, create or save millions of jobs.

Another key part of the stimulus revolves around the automotive industry: anyone who buys a new vehicle in 2009 will be allowed to deduct the sales tax paid on the vehicle from their taxable income.  In a typical scenario laid out by USA Today (see the previous link), an “average” car purchase would reduce an individual’s taxable income by roughly $700 according to a tax estimator.

Not exactly a ton, but in today’s economy, every little bit helps, right?  Well, apparently it does, just not enough to spur car buying.

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Which Presidential Candidate Has the Best Alternative Energy Plan?

Some of the most important issues of the 2008 Presidential campaign revolve around alternative energy and breaking our dependence on foreign oil.  Thanks to our current energy crunch, Americans have had to deal with much higher prices for gasoline and energy, and are likely to face record high heating bills this winter.

On top of the economic pain, it’s hard to deny that the green movement is in full effect.  Since it’s pretty hard to deny the link between our use of fossil fuels and our current environmental problems – most notably, global warming – an alternative energy plan predicated on carbon neutral resources is extremely important to a lot of voters.

So, which candidate won over the most Americans with his energy plan?  Right now, it’s kind of hard to tell.

According to a recent poll on Daily Fuel Economy Tip, most Americans are torn over whether either, neither, or both Presidential candidates will be able to implement a solid alternative energy plan.

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Oil and Gas Prices Being Manipulated Before Presidential Election?

Over the last two months, the price of oil has declined nearly 28%, falling from a record high of $147.22 to Friday’s closing price of $106.23.  Likewise, the price of gasoline has declined more than 11%, falling from a record high of $4.12 to today’s average price of $3.65.

These price declines have come as a relief for many Americans, as they have helped ease the pain at the pump and pushed down inflation in general.

However, as welcome as these price declines have been, some drivers believe they’re coming about due to reasons beyond supply and demand or economic weakness.

According to a recent poll on Daily Fuel Economy Tip, nearly half of us feel that the prices of oil and gasoline are being manipulated leading up to the November Presidental election.

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Hurricane Gustav Update – Better Than Expected

Hurricane Gustav made landfall this morning near central Louisiana at roughly 10 a.m. as a Category 3 storm, packing winds of over miles per hour. Fortunately, since making landfall, the storm has been downgraded to a Category 2, and how has sustained wind gusts of over 110 mph.

The major concern now that Gustav has made landfall is the storm surge that is likely to come as the back half of the hurricane comes around the shoreline. Most forecasts predict the surge will be between 8 to 12 feet.

Clearly what has happened so far has been better news than what was forecast even 18 to 24 hours ago, when most meteorologists were predicting Gustav would strengthen to at minimum a Category 4 storm before making landfall.

And, thanks to this better than expected news, the price of oil has fallen, and the price of gasoline has remained relatively stable.

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What Have you Cut Back on to Offset Higher Gasoline Prices?

With the price of gasoline only ten percent below its record high, there’s no question that our pain at the pump has caused many of us to make several “lifestyle” changes in order to make ends meet.

Even with the recent month-long decline in the price of gasoline – now down 43 cents from its peak – we’re still paying about a third more than we were at the same point last year. This extra strain, in addition to higher food prices, falling real estate values and a slumping job market, has significantly hurt many families’ financial situations.

To see where people have been cutting back their expenses to deal with soaring fuel costs, I recently had a poll on Daily Fuel Economy Tip which asked, “What have you cut back on the most to offset higher gasoline prices?”

Here’s a breakdown of the responses:

  • Transportation – 38%
  • Nothing – 23%
  • Entertainment (movies, music, sports, etc.) – 18%
  • Dining Out – 15%
  • Vices (drinking, smoking, lotto, etc.) – 6%

Obviously, cutting back on driving is the easiest way to reduce the impact of higher gasoline prices. After all, if you’re using less gas, higher prices aren’t going to hurt you as much.

For many of us who can’t reduce our driving enough to make a sizable dent in gasoline costs, we need to look to cut costs elsewhere. Whether it’s not going out to the movies as much, making more of an effort to eat in, or cutting back on a pack-a-day habit, making small concessions can really go a long way towards easing the financial strain of higher gasoline prices.

I was pretty surprised to see that nearly a quarter of respondents stated they hadn’t cut back on anything in an effort to try and offset higher fuel costs. I’m not sure if it’s because they can afford the higher prices, or if they don’t feel like making any changes in their lifestyle, or something else.

For the rest of us, making even slight concessions might help to make our financial situations a little bit better.

Expensive Gas Draining Your Budget?

Over the past six or seven months, higher gas prices have come to put a strain on many of our personal financial situations. To what degree the higher fuel costs have affected quality of life will vary from one person to the next, but, at the very least, we’ve all at least noticed that a larger portion of our budgets has gone towards filling up our vehicles.

In order to try and find out how much our bottom lines have been affected, I recently had a poll up on Daily Fuel Economy Tip which asked: What’s the most you’ve had to spend to fill up your primary vehicle?

Here’s now over 150 people responded:

  • 4% said less than $40
  • 21% said between $41 and $50
  • 26% said between $51 and $60
  • 18% said between $61 and $70
  • 31% said more than $70

Considering the price of gasoline has climbed over 35 percent over the last year, it’s easy to see why so many drivers have had to pay more than $70 to fill up. For example, if you’re paying $4 a gallon for gas, all it would take is for you to have a 17.5 gallon gasoline tank to hit the $70 mark. Since tanks this size aren’t just reserved for large trucks or SUVs, many owners of “practical” cars – i.e. mid and full sized sedans – are feeling the pain, too.

Fortunately, over the last month or so, the price of gasoline has eased a bit and has fallen a little more than six percent. While that percentage decline might not appear to be too significant, on that 17.5 gallon tank, you’d end up saving nearly $4.50 on every fill up. Over time, that savings would certainly add up.

If recent trends continue, we should begin to see the decline in gas prices gain even more momentum over the coming weeks and months as demand continues to weaken. In order to cope with higher costs, many drivers have switched to cars with better fuel economy, have reduced the amount of miles they drive, or stopped driving all together.

UPDATE – back on July 6, I stated in a post that I believed the price of oil would never drop below $120 again. Turns out, there’s a first time for everything, because I was wrong. Today, the price of oil closed at $118.58, continuing its recent sharp decline.

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