AAA: How Gasoline Prices Affect Consumer Decisions

April 24, 2013 04:12 AM


The price of gasoline has been on a general decline for several weeks now and AAA auto has released data from a recent survey that reports on consumer habits. Half of U.S. adults believe gasoline prices are too high -- no surprises there -- but the survey details how these perceived high gasoline prices affect consumer decisions.

"It was not long ago that motorists were shocked to pay more than $3 per gallon for gasoline, but now that is standard at stations nationwide," said Robert L. Darbelnet, President and CEO of AAA. "Today's average consumer feels a breaking point on high gas prices closer to $3.50 per gallon, and expensive prices have forced many motorists to change their driving habits."

According to the survey of over 1000 respondents, 46% believe gasoline is too expensive when the price reaches $3.00/gallon; 61% at $3.50 and 90% believe $4.00/gallon is too much to pay for gasoline. $3.44/gallon is the point at which the majority of respondents will change their behavior in an effort to save money.

Drivers' habits have changed as a result of the higher prices we now see. 86% are driving less, 71% have reduced shopping trips and dining out, 54% go so far as to purchase a more fuel efficient vehicle while 53% delay major purchases, all based on the price of gasoline.

Today's national average price of gasoline is $3.52 per gallon, but prices currently vary by more than $1 per gallon nationwide. The national average has remained above $3.00 per gallon for 28 consecutive months, and above $3.44 per gallon for 82 days. While the national average has not surpassed $4.00 per gallon since 2008, it is not uncommon for motorists living in the West Coast, Northeast and near the Great Lakes to pay more than $4.00 per gallon.

The survey clearly shows that American motorists feel the pinch when gasoline prices move higher. Fracking from shale reserves has opened new possibilities for domestic energy, but refinery capacity must be increased if U.S. crude is to have a softening effect on national gasoline prices. A new refinery has not come online in the United States since 1976.

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