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Cheap gas expands options for car buyers

Posted on 7/31/2017 by Brian Benson

When gas prices hovered around $4 per gallon about a decade ago, Jared Forgues might have been hesitant to consider certain vehicles.

But, with the cost of regular gas almost half what it once was, Forgues was in search of a new or used pickup truck Friday.

“Low gas prices have certainly allowed us to look at a wider range of vehicles for sure,” Forgues, of Leominster, said while he looked at a used Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck at the Imperial dealerships in Mendon.

Forgues said low gas prices are just a part of the reason to consider a pickup truck. The family of four also needs the space a pickup truck has for household projects, he said.

Forgues is not alone in looking for a pickup truck. Sales of trucks and SUVs have been rising as the price at the pump hovers in the $2 per gallon range. And, customers want the space those vehicles provide for carrying equipment or a large family, local car salespeople say.

The American Automobile Association found self-serve, regular unleaded gas in Massachusetts averaging $2.21 per gallon on Monday, up seven cents from a year ago.

That’s a far cry from prices that topped $4 a gallon in 2008. Increased U.S. production of oil and gasoline and a global glut of oil have helped bring prices down and stay relatively steady. Analysts continue to watch OPEC decisions, said Mary Maguire, an AAA spokeswoman.

The low, stable gas prices haven’t had a major positive or negative effect on gas stations. That could be due in part to cars becoming more fuel efficient and needing to fill up less, said Matt LeLacheur, co-executive director of the New England Service Station and Auto Repair Association.

Last month, buyers in the United States continued a trend toward purchasing SUVs and trucks. Trucks and SUVs made up 63 percent of auto sales in June, up from less than half of sales five years ago, the Associated Press reported.

“The big thing is there’s really no penalty to buying a crossover SUV vs. a sedan,” said Craig Fitzgerald, editor-in-chief of GateHouse Media owns and the Daily News.

Fuel economies are similar and an SUV offers more storage and other features, Fitzgerald said.

And, there’s a relatively new class of compact crossovers such as the Mazda CX-3 that have come on the market in recent years. Pickup trucks are typically always good sellers, he said.

Gas prices will eventually go up, and that could be an opportunity for plug-in hybrid vehicles to explode in popularity, Fitzgerald said.


Small SUVs and pickup trucks are selling particularly well, said Mike Penner of the Imperial dealerships.

Imperial has seen about a 35 percent increase in sales of pickup trucks and crossovers over the past year, he said.

“Larger families are going for vehicles that have a third-row seat,” he said.

Cheap gas is helping fuel sales of large SUVs, although Penner said customers often look to trade in those vehicles when prices at the pump spike.

Fuel economy was a critical factor in car purchases in 2008, said Marlboro Nissan and Milford Nissan owner Jeff Batta.

Falling prices at the pump “removed gas from the equation,” Batta said.

Sedans such as the Altima or Maxima have historically been the top seller. Now, it’s the Rogue, which is a compact SUV, Batta said.

Carol DeMeo of Marlborough visited Marlboro Nissan Friday to get a loaner car as she looks to replace a Nissan Rogue that was totaled. She plans to get another Rogue. Gas prices are not a key factor in her decision, although she is pleased with the Rogue’s fuel economy.