gas - Tomer Appelbaum - February 11 2011
The gas pump. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Etti Katz
Dadi Dalal Photo by Etti Katz
Galit Cohen
Yonit Rusho Photo by Galit Cohen
Amichai Baharav
Amichai Baharav Photo by Amichai Baharav

For years Leora Greenberg commuted every day from Givatayim to her office in Ramat Gan's diamond exchange district, laying out NIS 600 a month for gasoline. Traffic jams would stretch the short drive to half an hour, and parking for the day would often cost another NIS 40. She considered switching to a car with manual transmission to improve gas efficiency, but didn't find anything suitable within her budget, so decided to just leave the car at home and go by bus.

"When I checked my monthly transportation expenses I realized they were way too high and decided to cut back," says Greenberg. "Now I take the bus to work for about NIS 6 each way, and it doesn't take me any longer. I also started visiting my parents in the Golan less frequently so I save another half a tank in gas."

Endless gasoline price increases are convincing many people to cope by cutting down on car use. With 95 octane reaching an all-time high of NIS 7.26 per liter, public pressure on the government to lower prices is building, but in the meantime drivers are still looking for ways to stop the daily drain on their wallets.

Public transportation - the simplest solution

The most conventional way to save is, naturally, by using public transportation. To get a better understanding of cost savings from commuting by bus and train, or using fuel-efficient motorcycles or scooters, we asked Heshev Information Systems to calculate the costs for different modes of transportation between Tel Aviv and various cities over a month consisting of 22 work days.

Using your own car includes gasoline costs, varying according to distance traveled and how the vehicle is used, as well as fixed costs - insurance, car licensing, and repairs - which can raise total operating costs several fold.

In calculating travel costs by train or intercity bus, we added bus fare within Tel-Aviv, since most residents don't live within walking distance of a train station or bus terminal.

High on the hog or by the hour

Motorcycles cost the least to use for distances up to 15 kilometers, but public transportation is far more economical for further destinations.

Fueling up the bike to get to Jerusalem or Haifa will set you back about the same as buying bus tickets - but insurance, licensing and upkeep can more than triple the overall expense.

Anyone not needing a car on a daily basis should consider the option of occasionally renting a car when necessary and eliminate fixed costs associated with ownership. A Hyundai Getz can be rented on weekdays for just NIS 140 a day for trips of up to 250 kilometers, not including gas.

On weekends small 48-hour rentals can reach NIS 310, but some companies offer weekend deals for just NIS 200 if the car is returned by 9:00 Sunday morning.

Car2go offers another solution: Renting by the hour. The company maintains self-service car lots scattered throughout Tel-Aviv, as well as in Givatayim and Ra'anana. Initial registration costs NIS 145 and all other charges are according to car usage. For occasional trips totaling up to 14 hours per month the cost is a monthly fee of NIS 14 plus NIS 19 per hour, or NIS 190 per day. For two or three trips per month totaling up to 24 hours, signing up for a NIS 75 monthly membership and paying NIS 14 per hour, or NIS 140 per day, works out best.

For heavier use, a monthly membership for NIS 195 can be had, entitling the user to pay just NIS 11 per hour or NIS 110 per day. Car2go also charges for gasoline use: NIS 1.65 per kilometer for the first 50 kilometers and NIS 0.95 per kilometer beyond that.

Switch to cheaper fuel

A less common option here, but popular in other countries such as Australia, is adapting the car's engine to run on liquefied petroleum gas, also knows as autogas or propane, a cheaper alternative fuel that can save money in the long run.

For cars with engine displacements of up to two liters, the investment costs an average of NIS 7,500 including VAT. Gaspro is one company that specializes in performing these conversions. Its CEO, Ehud Tamir, estimates a payback period of 18 months for cars doing over 20,000 kilometers a year.

A liter of propane costs NIS 3.80 but is consumed at a rate 10% higher than gasoline. The number of drivers in Israel using propane is estimated at 20,000. Aside from low awareness for this solution there are several barriers to market penetration: Only about 60 propane filling stations in all of Israel, the propane tank takes up most of the trunk space, and regulations forbid parking propane-fueled cars in underground garages.

Despite the drawbacks Tamir is optimistic that propane use will rise.

"Between 2009 and 2010 we saw a 30% increase in installations and expect the same growth in 2011. The public is displaying more openness to the idea, and we are even starting to see growing interest from company fleet managers," says Tamir.

Dadi Dalal, entrepreneur and owner of a bridal shop, 32, Kiryat Malakhi

Savings method: Switched to propane and saves NIS 2,000 a month.

"I make massive use of my private car, starting with a daily commute to Ashdod. I drive twice a month to Eilat, twice monthly to Tel Aviv, and make frequent trips to Rishon Letzion. My total mileage reaches 5,000 kilometers a month. According to my calculations I spend NIS 2,000 a month instead of NIS 4,000 since switching to LPG, and should cover the NIS 9,000 installation cost within about four months."

Yonit Rusho, CEO of a website-building boutique firm, 34 years old, Kfar Sava

Savings method: Switched from driving to using train, saving NIS 700 monthly.

"Our business expanded and we decided to open offices in Tel Aviv, looking for a location near a train station or other convenient public transportation to save on gasoline costs - for both ourselves and our employees.

"I live near a train station, which is ideal for me. We found office space within a 10 minute walk from the train, near the Azrieli Center. I also lecture at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, which has a train station conveniently located nearby. Since switching my mode of transportation last month I hardly ever use my car except near home ferrying the children. I used to spend NIS 1,500 monthly on gasoline but now spend NIS 400 on gas and NIS 400 on train rides."

Amichai Baharav, project manager for Unica, 29 years old, Tel Aviv

Savings method: Switched from driving to riding the bus and sold his second car, saving NIS 550 a month.

"We were exposed to convenient public transportation abroad and decided it was also possible for where we live, in the center of Tel Aviv. Suddenly my fiance and I realized we have no need for two cars, so we sold hers and both switched to riding buses to work and for going out in the evening, using the Rav-Kav smart ticket card. Our gas expenses were close to NIS 1,500 a month, but now we don't use more than a tank and a half each month, which comes to about NIS 500. Most of our driving now is visiting our parents in Ra'anana and Herzliya on weekends. The Rav-Kav cards cost us about NIS 450 a month."