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03/10/2022

New Survey Finds $4 Gas Is Tipping Point for Most Americans

AAA: Consumers say they will adjust their lifestyles to offset the spike at the pump.
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gas prices

NATIONAL REPORT —With the national average for gas prices at an all-time high of more than $4 per gallon, Americans may have reached a tipping point, according to AAA data.

Nearly six in 10 participants in a new survey (59 percent) said they would make changes to their driving habits or lifestyle if the cost of gas rose to $4 per gallon. If gas were to reach $5 per gallon, which it has in the Western part of the country, three-quarters of respondents said they would need to adjust their lifestyle to offset the spike at the pump.

Among Americans who said they would make changes in response to higher gas prices, four in five said they would opt to drive less, with some differences among age groups:

  • Those in the 18-to-34 age group are almost three times as likely as those 35 and over to consider carpooling (29 percent vs. 11 percent), which would likely involve major changes to their daily travel plans.
  • Those 35 and over are more likely to favor combining trips and errands (68 percent vs. 52 percent) and to reduce shopping or dining out (53 percent vs. 43 percent).

Despite these changes in travel habits, the survey found that more than half of Americans (52 percent) have plans to take a vacation this summer. Of those, 42 percent said they would not consider changing their travel plans regardless of the price of gas.

While the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues, consumers will likely not see relief at the pump any time soon, predicted AAA.

The association offered the following advice to help drivers ease some of the pain they're feeling at the pump:

  • Keep vehicles in top shape with routine inspections. In between them, make sure tires are properly inflated, as underinflated tires are a drag on fuel economy.
  • Map a route before departure to minimize unnecessary turnarounds and backtracking. Avoid peak traffic times and, if possible, go to "one-stop shops" where to perform multiple tasks (banking, shopping, etc.)
  • Fuel economy peaks at around 50 miles per hour on most cars, then drops off as speeds increase. Reducing highway speeds by five to 10 miles per hour can increase fuel economy by as much as 14 percent.
  • A car engine consumes one-quarter to one-half gallon of fuel per hour when idling, but a warm engine only takes around 10 seconds' worth of fuel to restart. Where safe to do so, drivers may want to shut off the engine if they expect to stop for more than a minute.
  • Use "fast pass" or "express" toll lanes to avoid unnecessary stops or slowdowns on the highway.
  • Only use premium gas in vehicles that recommend or require it. Gas for a vehicle that takes regular is a waste of money and is of no benefit to the vehicle.

Started in 1902 by automotive enthusiasts who wanted to chart a path for better roads in America and advocate for safe mobility, AAA provides roadside assistance, travel, discounts, financial and insurance services to 62 million members across North America, including 56 million in the United States.