With Low Pump Prices, Motorists Dash Worries And Hit The Road

September 3, 2010
Heading out to the beach, or up to the mountains this weekend? Pump prices aren’t nearly as high as they were this spring, but they’re still enough to make cost-conscious, recession-battered travelers crunch the numbers before hitting the road.

At only about 11 cents higher per gallon this year (to about $2.69 a gallon, on average), gas prices are affecting far fewer households than in summer 2008, when they had surged past the four-dollar mark. Sixteen percent (double that of June 2008) of respondents said that gas prices have no impact on driving or spending.

AAA projects that there will be a lot more people out on the roads this coming holiday weekend. Altogether, 34.4 million travelers will travel at least 50 miles from home, and overall travel will increase 9.9 percent versus last year. Hotel, car, and vacation reservations are up by more than ten percent.

This weekend, 91 percent of travelers will drive, while just five percent will fly; rail, bus, and watercraft make up the remainder. Overall, those who drive will travel fewer miles, though—635 miles on average, versus 645 last year. And most will spend about $700 over the weekend.

Drivers aren’t completely worry-free about fuel costs, though. According to a recent Nielsen Company survey, about 45 percent of households are nevertheless seeking out lower gas prices.

That survey found that 63 percent of motorists are combining trips as a reaction to high gas prices, while 29 percent are making other spending reductions; due to gas costs, 46 percent are eating out less, and 38 percent are using coupons to watch the budget.

Fewer households are shopping at supercenters because of the additional gas required to get there, but Nielsen did find that consumers are buying gas at major grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and such because of incentives, discounts, and in-store savings.

There might be some other factors beyond consumer confidence and fuel prices. AAA has noted that historically, the earlier in September the Labor Day weekend happens, the busier it is for travel.

[AAA; Nielsen]

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