Consumers Remain Price Sensitive at the Pump
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — U.S. consumers are still looking for the best gas prices, even though current prices are near six-year lows, according to the results of a new consumer survey released Monday by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.
Nearly three in four consumers (71 percent) say price is the most important factor in determining where they buy gas, and three in five (63 percent) say they would drive five minutes out of their way to save 5 cents per gallon. An even greater percentage (72 percent) would pay by cash if they could save five cents per gallon.
Consumers are increasingly seeking out discounts for their gas purchases as well. Two in three (65 percent) say they have taken advantage of a discount, such as using a loyalty card or paying by cash to save money buying gas.
“It doesn’t matter whether gas prices are $4 or $2 per gallon, consumers still want to find the best price possible,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS’ vice president of strategic industry initiatives. “Retailers are constantly fighting to attract price-sensitive drivers to their stores, especially given that 35 percent of gas customers say they also go inside the store after fueling.”
Because of lower gas prices, some consumers are driving more. One in five surveyed by NACS (20 percent) say they are driving more because of the lower prices. Consumers say gas prices would have to increase by $1.53 per gallon before they would try to reduce the amount they drive. This is the largest gap between current prices and the price at which consumers would change driving behavior in any NACS consumer survey, the association reported.
Consumers overwhelmingly believe that low gas prices are good for the U.S economy (91 percent agree), but they expect prices will increase soon. Two in three (67 percent) agree that gas prices will increase in the spring. And they predict that prices will climb back up to $2.95 by Jan. 1, 2016.
These survey results were released as part of the 2015 NACS Retail Fuels Report, which examines conditions and trends that could impact gasoline prices. The online resource is published annually.
NACS conducts a monthly consumer sentiment survey to gauge how gas prices affect broader economic trends. The latest NACS survey, conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates LLC, surveyed 1,108 gas consumers Jan. 6-8.
NACS has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies, which do business in nearly 50 countries.