Will Higher Gas Prices Hurt Summer Travel?

Samantha Oller, Senior Editor/Fuels, CSP

summer travel forecast gasbuddy

CHICAGO -- As the national retail average for gasoline rises near $3 this month heading into the Memorial Day weekend, recent surveys suggest the trend may affect consumers’ travel plans for the summer. They differ, however, in the degree of consumers moving away from travel.

Here's a look at two analyses ...

NACS Consumer Fuels Survey

The most recent NACS Consumer Fuels Survey, conducted in May, found that only 11% of consumers said they planned to drive less in the coming 30 days—a figure that is only a few percentage points higher than in the April survey. This is even though reported gasoline prices were 15 cents per gallon (CPG) higher than in April, and 47 CPG higher than in May 2017.

Consumers were slightly more likely to say they planned to dine out less in the May survey (34%) vs. the April survey (27%). They were also somewhat more likely to say they planned to spend less on nongasoline household purchases in the May survey (22%) vs. the April survey (16%).

Consumer optimism is also down slightly, with 60% surveyed in May saying they were optimistic about the economy, down 2 points from April. Men were more optimistic than women, at 66% vs. 55%. Consumers in the Midwest (63%) and West (62%) were the most optimistic about the economy, while those in the Northeast and South were the least (59%). 

Two-thirds of consumers surveyed in May expect gasoline prices to continue to increase in the next 30 days. Meanwhile, the percentage of consumers who said gas prices influence their feelings about the economy was up 5 points from the April survey.

The NACS Consumer Fuels Survey was conducted online May 7-11 by Penn Schoen Berland with 1,501 U.S. adults who purchase fuel for a vehicle at least once per month. Click here to see more results.

GasBuddy 2018 Summer Travel Survey

A recent survey by GasBuddy of its members found that the percentage of consumers planning a summer road trip has fallen 24 points from last year. In GasBuddy’s 2018 Summer Travel Survey, 58% of consumers said they would take a road trip. Meanwhile, 39% said high gas prices were affecting their summer travel decisions, compared to 19% in 2017. This is as the national retail average rose almost 5 cents per gallon week over week to reach $2.93 per gallon May 21, according to GasBuddy’s survey of 135,000 gas stations.

The percentage of consumers planning a long road trip is also down in 2018. Only 31% said they planned to drive more than 500 miles round-trip, vs. 56% in 2017. GasBuddy conducted the survey from April 27 to May 3 with more than 17,000 users of its gas-price information app.

"For all those that have said summer travel will be unaffected by high gas prices, we offer thousands of respondents who have strongly indicated that's not true, especially as gas prices continue to climb," said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for Boston-based GasBuddy. "For the first time in years, the annual GasBuddy Summer Travel Survey revealed that higher prices are hurting the tradition of the summer road trip as we near a national average of $3 per gallon.”