Buying new fuel efficient vehicles can take awhile to pay off

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - With gas prices as high as $4 a gallon, it's natural to start to think about ways to save some money, including buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle. But will investing in a new car to get better gas mileage pay off in the long run?

Car dealers are now running ads to entice you to trade your older car in for a car that gets better mileage. And while that may be great for the environment, some experts say the improved fuel economy doesn't necessarily mean more money in your wallet.

According to the AAA, people have been driving a lot less since gas prices began to soar, and gas consumption nationwide has declined for the past five weeks.

The more you continue to shell out money at the pump, the more you may start to wonder if trading in your old clunker for a more fuel efficient car is a good idea. Financial experts say it may not add up to saving money.

"Usually keeping the older car as long as possible makes more financial sense than trading it in, even with gas prices," said financial expert Dorla Evans.

Evans says trading in your old car may come with the trade off of a new car payment, and she crunched some numbers to see what would make it worth your while.

"It's not worth it to buy a new car," Evans said. "In my estimation, prices would have to go up $2.50 a gallon to make it worthwhile. If gas were $4.50 a gallon and if you used 15 gallons per week, over five years, it cost you $17,500."

Mechanic Ray Barnett says you can get more fuel efficiency out of your car with just a little maintenance.

"Especially keep your tires inflated and your engine air filter clean and your oil changed properly," Barnett said. "You're doing the best you could do."

The truth is, anyone who drives at all is feeling the effects of high gas prices, so even small changes like not idling your car, keeping your speed down and making sure your car's in tip-top shape are the best way to keep costs down.

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