Survey says US gas prices must hit $6.51 before drivers change

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An old-fashioned gasoline pump.

Gas prices are out of control, yet consumers claim they're willing to take a little more punishment. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Daryl Mitchell/Wikipedia)

AOL Autos reports that many drivers are not fed up with high fuel costs yet. As evidence, a new survey conducted by has found that more than a third of U.S. car shoppers would only feel forced to consider a more fuel efficient vehicle if gas prices exceeded $6.51 per gallon.

Numb to gas prices, desiring power

Rick Wainschel, vice president of automotive insights for AutoTrader, thinks that consumers have nearly been beaten into submission by high gas prices.

“People are coming to grips with higher prices of gas,” Wainschel said. “They are concerned with fuel prices, but they expect gas prices to remain high.”

According to AutoTrader survey results, a new vehicle’s fuel efficiency did not rank at the top for reasons why consumers buy. It did rank as being important, as did saving money and helping foster a healthy environment. Yet none of those factors claimed the top spot among survey respondents. Style, power, comfort, flexibility and a number of other related factors were labeled more important.

What consumers are willing to take

As of April 2, the U.S. Energy Information Administration recorded the average gas price per gallon in the U.S. as $3.94. AutoTrader’s survey found that fuel costs would have to go up significantly before consumers would claim to be fed up. While the tipping point varied, a majority balked once the theoretical gas price hit $6.51 or higher. The survey found:

  • For 19 percent of survey respondents, gas prices had to be between $4 and $4.50 per gallon before they would change the average amount of fuel they purchase
  • For 7 percent of survey respondents, fuel costs would have to hit the $4.51 to $5 per gallon zone before they would make serious changes to their driving habits or the vehicles they use
  • For 18 percent of survey respondents, gas prices would have to shoot up to between $5 and $5.50 per gallon
  • For 11 percent of survey respondents, calm would continue until gas prices entered the $5.51 to $6 per gallon zone
  • For 10 percent of survey respondents, the cost of fuel on a per gallon basis would have to hit $6 to $6.50 per gallon
  • 35 percent of AutoTrader survey respondents said that they’d keep guzzling gas until it hit $6.51 per gallon

Gas prices are not your buddy

The $100 barrier – consistently paying $100 or more to fill a gas tank, even in a compact car – has traditionally been the mark at which industry experts have assumed consumers would take to the streets in protest. But as Eric Lyman, vice president of subsidiary ALG, noted, the protests have largely been non-existent.

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“People are getting accustomed to high gas prices and are adjusting the way they spend their money,” said Lyman. “(But $4 per gallon) was a shock to the system, and it directly impacted consumer behavior.”

The shocks are likely to continue, predicts By the end of April, GasBuddy sees average gas prices in the U.S. climbing as high as $4.35 per gallon.

Trading for better mpg

High gas prices have prompted many consumers to trade in their gas guzzlers for more fuel-economical cars. Aaron Bragman of industry forecasting company IHS Automotive noted that fuel efficiency increases of 30 to 40 percent or better make a big difference in the wallet. Trading in larger, older cars for smaller, more economical models makes sense. As credit for auto loans has also become more available, the time to make a change may be here – or when gas prices hit $6.51 per gallon.

“There are a lot of reasons the new car market is doing so well right now,” Bragman said.

Why gas prices are so high


AOL Autos



U.S. Energy Information Administration

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