New AAA survey identifies breaking point on gas prices

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by Chris Patterson

MILWAUKEE -- Half of U.S. adults consider gas prices to be “too high” when it reaches $3.44 per gallon, indicating a potential breaking point on gas prices, according to a new consumer price index developed by AAA. Roughly two-thirds of Americans 62% are offsetting high gas prices by changing their driving habits or lifestyle.

“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.”

AAA’s gas-price index tracks consumer attitudes by determining at what price the cost of gasoline becomes too high. The results from the open-ended survey demonstrate how attitudes can be expected to change as prices rise above significant milestones:

  • 46% believe gas is too high when the price reaches $3.00 per gallon
  • 61% believe gas is too high when the price reaches $3.50 per gallon
  • 90% believe gas is too high when the price reaches $4.00 per gallon

Consumers report changing their driving habits or lifestyle in a number of ways to offset recent gas prices, including:

  • 86% - Driving less
  • 71% - Reducing shopping or dining out
  • 54% - Driving a more fuel efficient car
  • 53% - Delaying major purchases
  • 39% - Working closer to home
  • 33% - Carpooling
  • 15% - Using public transportation more regularly
  • 18% - Other

Younger consumers ages 18-34 are more likely to offset recent gas prices by working closer to home or using public transportation more regularly than adults ages 35 and up (48 percent vs. 35 percent and 25 percent vs. 10 percent, respectively). These results could suggest a generational shift in terms of attitudes towards driving, but it is too early to say whether these attitudes would continue into the future.

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