Despite Efficient Cars, Savings at Pump Elusive

Despite reduced gasoline consumption, higher prices at the pump mean Americans are finding themselves with less money to spend elsewhere. That's according to a pair of reports issued Monday by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental advocacy group.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Energy Department's report showed that U.S. households spent an average of $2,912 — or nearly 4% of their pretax income — on gas in 2012. That's the highest percentage in 30 years, even as Americans have cut down on fuel consumption through more efficient driving habits and higher-mileage vehicles, the Times reported.

Meanwhile, the Union of Concerned Scientists reported that Americans are likely to spend as much on gas over the life of their vehicle as their vehicle originally cost. For example, the report states if a driver bought a car in 2011 and drove it for 15 years (the average lifetime of a vehicle), the owner would spend more than $22,000 on gas.

"You're basically paying for a second car every 15 years," Joshua Goldman, a policy analyst for the Union's clean vehicles program and author of the report, said in a statement. The report also noted that major oil companies posted near-record profits last year. "The only thing really benefiting from your oil use is oil companies' bottom line."

Although Americans' efficiency efforts haven't yet paid off financially, at least on average, the Union insists that higher-mileage vehicles will yield savings in the long run. For example, a Ford Fusion Hybrid SE costs more than its base model but consumes $9,000 less in gas over its lifetime.

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