Can't fix the brakes - gotta pay for gas

gas_pump_spill.gi.top.jpgAmericans paid 74% more for gas this February than they did two years ago. By Jessica Dickler, staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- It costs John Kunkle about $75 to fill up the gas tank in his Dodge Ram. That's more than he can afford, so he's had to postpone fixing the brakes.

"It's really biting into my paycheck," says the 53-year-old who lives in Ellenton, Fla. "It's actually getting to where it's not very safe."

Nationwide, drivers spent $347 on gasoline in February, which is nearly 8.5% of median income, according to the Oil Price Information Service. That's nearly 30% more than they spent in February of 2010 -- and 74% more than two years ago, when they shelled out $200 on gas.

Still, gas prices remain shy of the record high reached in July 2008, when the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline hit $4.11 and fuel accounted for 10% of consumer's income.

This recent run-up in gas prices has taken a big bite out of consumers' disposable income, leaving most Americans forced to cutback in other areas of their spending where there is rarely any cushion.

"There are some things, that if the price goes up, you can simply just cannot buy it anymore," said Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist with Capital Economics. "Unfortunately a change in the price of gasoline is at the other end of the spectrum."

"People still need to drive to work, they still need to take their kids to school, they still need to do all the things they did before so people are still going to use the same amount of gas," he explained. "It's just going to cost them more and that means they have less money to spend on other goods and services."

For example, Cory Andrews, 37, can no longer afford to send his youngest daughter to preschool in Fort Myers, Fla.

"When it comes down to putting gas in your car, food on the table and paying rent, it's about making choices," says Andrews, who commutes 70 miles a day to his job as an athletic trainer.

Brenda Jones, 53, has opted out of an evening college course that she hoped would aid her in her nonprofit business. But the class cost $3,200 and was far from her home in Southampton, N.J.

"I am afraid to spend that much money right now," Jones said. "Plus, it's a one hour drive so the gas expense alone was a big deterrent." To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.28%4.30%
15 yr fixed3.24%3.18%
5/1 ARM3.41%3.53%
30 yr refi4.19%4.22%
15 yr refi3.18%3.12%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,039.49 60.36 0.36%
Nasdaq 4,532.10 5.62 0.12%
S&P 500 1,992.37 5.86 0.29%
Treasuries 2.41 -0.02 -0.78%
Data as of 6:45pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.16 0.64 4.12%
eBay Inc 55.89 2.49 4.66%
Hewlett-Packard Co 37.00 1.88 5.35%
Intel Corp 35.15 0.65 1.88%
Apple Inc 100.58 0.01 0.01%
Data as of 4:03pm ET

Sections

Russian officials have shut four McDonald's restaurants in Moscow, including the first to open in the city nearly 25 years ago at the end of the Cold War. More

The Heartbleed bug is to blame for the hospital hack that stole 4.5 milliion patient records. If true, brace yourself for similar, mega data breaches. More

This Canadian startup founder faced the threat of deportation because he was on the wrong visa. Problem is -- there's no startup visa for entrepreneurs. More

This month, Delaware became the first state to pass a law giving heirs the right to access the online accounts and assets of someone who has passed away. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.