Here’s the Surprising Truth About Higher Gas Prices

3 minute read

Higher gas prices? Haven’t noticed them.

Although you probably won’t hear anyone saying that, new surveys show Americans aren’t about to let a creeping per-gallon cost ruin their Memorial Day fun.

A new survey from the American Automobile Association finds that more than 37 million people plan to travel 50 miles or more over Memorial Day weekend, a 10-year high. That 37.2 million total is an increase of almost 5% over last year, which AAA says is a big jump. Most of these — about 33 million people — plan to drive, an increase of more than 5% over last year.

It’s not that we don’t notice the rising prices, another survey finds; it’s just that we’re not willing to change our habits — at least, not yet. According to NACS, the National Association of Convenience Stores, even though 85% of people say gas prices affect how they feel about the economy, only about one in 10 say they’ll be driving less over the next month as a result of the increase. This is the case even though more than 70% expect gas prices to get even higher over the next month. When NACS asked drivers this question last month, just under half said they thought gas prices would still be climbing by now.

But still, NACS finds that gas prices would have to rise, on average, just over another dollar a gallon before people will think twice about getting behind the wheel.

For some perspective, AAA points out that gas prices are still cheap compared to what we’ve been used to in recent years. The national average price of gas on Friday is $2.69, 30 cents higher than a month ago, but about a buck less than the average last Memorial Day.

The fact that gas prices are still so far below what we’ve seen over the past few years could very well be the factor keeping Americans on the road. New research from travel marketing company MMGY Global finds that people today perceive travel to be more affordable than they did a year ago. The study says about two-thirds of people plan to take a vacation within the next six months, a slight drop from a year ago, but that many of those who will travel expect to spend more.

The good news for penny-pinching travelers is that there might be some relief down the road when it comes to those prices at the pump. NACS says gas stations’ annual switchover to summer fuel blends could put a brake on the rising prices we see today.

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