Some finding pain at pump with $100 fill-up

With gasoline prices high and rising, a new financial milestone has arrived: the $100 tank of gas.

Bryan Carisone of Raritan, N.J., “absolutely loves” his new GMC Denali XL, an extra-large sport utility vehicle with televisions built into the leather seats. But in June, one week after he bought it, he pulled into a station on a near-empty tank and watched the total climb higher and higher – to $109.

“It just about killed me,” Carisone said.

Oil passed $100 a barrel in January and now seems headed toward $150 a barrel. Gasoline prices surpassed $4 a gallon on June 8, stalled for a while, and have been rising again in recent days, setting a record Saturday.

By late spring, owners of pickups and SUVs with 30-gallon tanks started paying $100 or more to fill a near-empty tank. As gas prices continue to rise, membership in the triple-digit club is growing. Now, even not-so-gargantuan Toyota Land Cruisers and GMC Yukons can cost $100 to fill up.

But during the first five months of 2008, about 11 percent of American drivers said they bought 24 gallons or more at their last fill-up, according to a survey of 81,000 drivers by the NPD Group, a market research firm – which at today's prices would place many of them at or around $100.

For people who love their big vehicles, the pain is acute.

Colleen Hammond of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, loves being able to pack her three kids and all their soccer gear into her 2000 GMC Yukon XL. But she hates paying $160 to fill the 38.5-gallon tank. Last month, she parked the Yukon in her driveway and borrowed a friend's Toyota Land Cruiser.

“I don't know if it gets better gas mileage, but I like her car because it costs $100 to fill it,” said Hammond. “I think $100 for a tank of gas is cheap now.”

But people who try to pump $100 worth of gas often find that they cannot, since most pumps that take credit cards shut off at $75 to prevent someone with insufficient funds or a stolen credit card from running off with gas.

“Usually I don't let it get real empty so that I don't have to see that $100 on the pump,” said Bob Hammond of Chesterland, Ohio, who drives a Chevy Avalanche. “It's a mental thing.”