Oil Falls Below $70; Gasoline up 60% in 12 Months

The price of oil has fallen below $70 for the first time since early October, thanks to increased U.S. petroleum reserves as well as a strengthening dollar. Since hitting its 2009 high of $82 per barrel on October 25, the price of oil has fallen nearly 15%.

Despite falling oil prices, the national average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline has remained relatively flat over the past month, falling just two cents from $2.65 to today’s price of $2.63.

While the price of gasoline is still well below the record highs set back in July 2008, it is still up nearly 60% from a year ago when the national average stood at $1.65 per gallon.

Currently only Hawaii ($3.53) and Alaska ($3.22) are reporting a state-wide average gas price above $3 per gallon, while 14 states are reporting an average gas price below $2.50 per gallon. Oklahoma currently has the lowest average price at $2.43 per gallon.

American Cars Can’t Shake Their “Not Good Enough” Image

For many years it has been widely believed that if you wanted to buy a quality car that would be reliable for years to come, you should avoid the big three American car manufacturers and buy something foreign.

While the American car makers did little to help themselves by mostly producing inferior products, over the past couple years it seems as if they have done a good job of got their act together and have started making better quality and better value vehicles.

In fact, just this past year, it was Ford, not Honda or Toyota, that scored the highest for quality and reliability.

While this is certainly good news for the American automotive industry, the bad news is all of the shoddy work of prior years makes it hard to shake the “just not good enough” image.

Here’s how nearly 500 people responded when asked: Do you believe American cars are the same quality as foreign cars?

  • 60% said “No, I think they are worse quality.”
  • 25% said “Yes, they are on par.”
  • 13% said “No, I think they are better quality.”
  • 2% said they had no opinion

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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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Higher Gas Prices – The Downside of an Improving Economy

Over the past three weeks there have been several major indicators that “The Great Recession” is finally starting to ease and turn the corner.

First, the Case-Shiller index showed the first month-over-month increase in home prices, the first such increase in nearly three years.  In other housing related news, sales of existing homes climbed for the third straight month.

Then there was the better than expected preliminary reading on the second quarter GDP, which showed the economy dipped at only a 1% annual pace between April and June.  Economist had been expecting the second quarter GDP to decline at 1.5%.

Finally, this past Friday, the July job report showed the economy lost “only” 247,000 jobs and unemployment actually dipped from 9.5% to 9.4%, the first such dip in 19 months.  Again, economists were expecting things to get worse, predicting unemployment would jump to 9.6%.

This is the sort of data we need to see on a consistent basis in order to know the economy has finally turned the corner and that this recession — the longest since WWII — is finally over.

That being said, it’s not as if this economic turn around won’t come without a little bit of pain, namely higher oil and gasoline prices.

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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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Gas Prices in Late Summer Climb

While the national average price of gasoline is nowhere near the record highs of last summer, it has been on a bit of a climb lately, jumping about ten cents over the past week, and is now at $2.63 per gallon.

At this time last year the price of gasoline was $3.84 per gallon — nearly 50% higher — so today’s average price really isn’t all that bad, comparatively speaking.

However, the glass-half-empty part of me would also like to point out that the price of gas is still $1 higher than the lows hit back in January of this year.  With the economy still kind of sluggish and the ranks of unemployed growing, even a slight increase in the price we pay at the pump can make a dent in our finances.

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Cash for Clunkers – Just Another Bad Idea

The “Cash for Clunkers” program — which offers a rebate of up to $4,500 for people to trade in their gas guzzlers (the vehicle has to get below 18 MPG to qualify for the full rebate) for new, fuel efficient vehicles — has, for the most part, been hailed as a huge success.

The U.S. auto industry has seen sales soar, and environmentalists have been happy to see people trading in their Ford Explorer for a Ford Focus.

That being said, I’m here to tell you why the Cash for Clunkers program is a waste and is just perpetuating our current financial problems.

Before I get into why the Cash for Clunkers program is bad for the average consumer, let’s talk about the good intentions in which the program is rooted.  The heart of the Cash for Clunkers program aims to serve two causes:

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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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Price of Gas Back Above $2

The average price of gasoline has climbed above the $2 mark yesterday, marking the first time since mid November 2008 that gas prices have been so “high.”  Since the the first of the year the price of gasoline has risen 25%, or roughly 40 cents per gallon, and chances are pretty good prices will continue a gradual climb through the summer months.

Currently 27 states and Washington, D.C. are reporting an average gas price above $2 per gallon, with Hawaii being the most expensive at $2.50.  Utah currently has the lowest state-wide average price at $1.79 per gallon.

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$4 Gas and A Financial Mess

Whether you’re fearing for your job, or watching your retirement account get smaller with each passing day, you’ve been affected to some degree by the dramatic downturn in the U.S. economy.  You’re probably spending less money, and making an extra effort to make sure that the money you do spend goes a lot further.

Without a doubt, times are pretty tough.

Now, just imagine what it would be like if $4 gas came back and compounded the economic problems.  Would you be able to make it financially?

According to a recent poll on Daily Fuel Economy Tip, nearly three out of every 10 people would experience a severe financial hardship if gasoline prices were to return to $4 per gallon.

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