Smart Drivers, Big Savings: Holt Andrus, Milwaukee WI

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Summer’s here, and gas prices are on the rise again. This year, experts say, prices could top 2008’s record-setting national average of $4.11 per gallon. But many Americans are driving smarter this time around, as demonstrated by the booming market for hybrids and small, fuel-efficient cars, whose growth is far outpacing traditional SUV sales. These smart drivers are getting a lot more bang for their gas bucks, and easing their pain at the pump. We’re featuring them in a series of posts in this space.

Holt Andrus, a second-grade teacher in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has been driving hybrids “since before they were cool,” he says. His first hybrid purchase was a used ’03 Honda Civic hybrid. In 2005 he bought a used ‘04 Prius, largely because his wife preferred the automatic transmission to the stick-shift Honda. (He gave the Civic hybrid to his mother.)

Andrus estimates his gas bill, even with prices topping $4 a gallon, is about $20 a week. “We’ve had the hybrid for so many years I take it a little for granted,” Andrus admits. “The other day the person in front of me at the pump filled up for like $60, and I thought, ‘Whoa, that’s a big expense.””

Here’s another great gas-saver -- Andrus bikes to work most days. Between the bike and the hybrid, Andrus and his family are relatively immune to the gas crunch. “I actually don’t even have to think about gas money that much, in terms of our budget,” he says, sounding apologetic. “It’s almost incidental.”