The average fuel economy of light vehicles rose by 0.3 miles per gallon last month, increasing for the first time since August.
A University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute report found that the average vehicle sold in the country last month offered 25.4 mpg, a rise from the 25.1 average mpg documented in December.
Average fuel economy hit a record high in August with 25.8 mpg. As fuel prices drop, consumers have been opting for more sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and other vehicles that require more fuel.
The average price of gas in the United States was at $2.11 today, a substantial drop compared with $3.27 at the same time last year.
"Vehicle fuel economy has generally been declining since last summer, likely in response to the declining gas prices," researcher Michael Sivak, who prepared the monthly report with Brandon Schoettle, told Automotive News. "We think that the improvement in vehicle fuel economy in January likely reflects the leveling off since mid-January in the price of gasoline."
A rise of 0.5 in fuel economy for January year over year marks 12 months in a row that average fuel economy has been greater than 25.
Consumers who are planning to buy a fuel-thirsty vehicle may want to keep in mind that the price of gas could be back on the rise.
The average cost of fuel has been rising after a record 123-day decline, the Wall Street Journal reported. Gas prices have been the cheapest in years due to the falling cost of crude oil, and less expensive fuel has in turn boosted auto industry sales. But the party could be over if fuel goes back up.
"It is a good bet that most drivers will pay more for gasoline in March than today," AAA spokesman Avery Ash said in a statement.