SAN DIEGO -- Trading in a gas-guzzling vehicle for a smaller, more fuel-efficient one will likely save you money in monthly gas, but it make take years for the investment to pay off, according to industry experts.
Gas prices now an average of $4.20 in California, according to AAA. In January 2009, a gallon of gas cost roughly $1.62. That 260 percent increase in just over two years is stunning.
"Get used to it. It's going to be a lot more," said San Diego driver Sasan Nakhshab.
So who hasn't thought about trading in a vehicle that gets less than 20 miles per gallon for a new car that can get more than 30 miles a gallon? A lot of people are acting on that impulse.Kearny Pearson Ford Kia General Manager Doug Davis said car sales have doubled almost across the board in the last couple months.
"In February, we sold 18 and this month we're on track to sell 40 Kia Souls," said Davis. "I think people are saying this is how it's going to be and they need to make a change. I don't think incomes are staying the same, and I don't think gas prices are going to come down, I really don't."
About 70 percent of the dealer's new car sales involve a trade-in vehicle. Davis said dealers are paying top dollar for decent trade-ins because car manufacturers in Detroit aren't producing as many new cars.
"A few years ago, they turned out 17 million new cars, this year that number was 11 million," said Davis.
Edmunds.com, a popular car website, allows consumers to calculate the benefits of trade-in vehicles.
FOX 5 wanted to find out if it makes sense to trade in a 2004 Ford Expedition, rated at 17 miles per gallon, for a $21,000 2011 Kia Soul, rated at 36 miles per gallon. The website calculator asked the miles per gallon rating of both vehicles and the selling price of the new car. It calculates the value of the trade-in and spits out a figure.
According the edmunds.com, driving a Kia Soul would save an average of $130 a month in gas. But it would take 161 months or 13 years for the gas savings to equal the expense of buying a new car, according to the calculator.
U.S. Retail Gasoline Prices, which monitors changes in gas prices, reported fuel has increased $1.11 per gallon since last year. That means drivers will pay an average of $500 a year more to drive, or $1.36 a day if they have a 12-gallon tank and fill up 45 times a year. That's money, but maybe not enough money to justify buying a new car.