Summer Travel Dip Expected Due To Higher Gas Prices

Rising gas prices have put a crimp in travel plans this summer, as more Americans are planning “staycations” instead of hitting the road, according to GasBuddy’s 2018 Summer Travel report. According to the annual survey, only 58 percent of respondents said that they will take a road trip this summer — a 24 percent decrease from last year. And, 39 percent of respondents cited high gas prices for impacting their summer travel decisions, compared to 19 percent in 2017.

The decrease in motorists’ appetite to hit the road comes at a time when the national average gasoline price is at its highest point since November 2014, attributable to a rally in oil prices because of long-term OPEC production cuts, declining U.S. oil inventories, high demand and more. According to GasBuddy, fuel prices were around $2.95 per gallon on Memorial Day — a $0.65 increase over Memorial Day last year. And, the impact of high gas prices will be felt well beyond Memorial Day.

“With refineries now well positioned for the summer months, we may see some relief in mid-June, but expect this summer to remain the priciest since 2014, with a strong likelihood of the national average hitting the psychological $3-per-gallon barrier sometime this summer should we see any unexpected outages or geopolitical tensions flare,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.

The psychological tipping point to affect miles driven and auto parts sales is more in the $4-per-gallon range, according to comments made by AutoZone Inc. chairman, president and CEO Bill Rhodes on the company’s May 22 conference call.

A few highlights from GasBuddy’s 2018 Summer Travel survey …
• Americans who are taking a road trip this summer won’t cover as much ground, as only 31 percent said they would drive more than 500 miles round trip, compared to 56 percent in 2017;
• 25 percent fewer people plan to take trips longer than one week this summer compared to last year, while weekend trips are up 17 percent; and
• Because of higher gas prices, the No.-1 road trip fear is overpaying for fuel, followed by the car breaking down.

The 2018 Summer Travel report surveyed more than 17,000 GasBuddy members between April 27 and May 3.