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Study: New gas “break point” price for consumers

June 24, 2013

By Oregon — American Automobile Associationgas

AAA’s New Consumer Index Identifies ‘High Gas Price’ Breaking Point

Two in three consumers offset high gas prices with driving or lifestyle changes

Half of U.S. adults consider gas prices to be “too high” when they reach $3.44 per gallon, indicating a tipping point that leads to behavior changes.A new consumer price index developed by AAA shows that roughly two-thirds of Americans (62 percent) are offsetting high pump prices by changing their driving habits or lifestyle.”It was not long ago that motorists were shocked to pay more than $3 per gallon for gasoline, but that seems like a distant memory for most of us,” said Dave Carlson, public affairs director for AAA Idaho. Carlson said AAA’s new nationwide survey confirms the consumer breaking point is nearer the $3.50 mark.

Results of a nationwide open-ended survey of 1,012 adult Americans demonstrate how attitudes are expected to change as prices rise above significant milestones:

46 percent believe gas is too high when the price reaches $3.00 per gallon
61 percent believe gas is too high when the price reaches $3.50 per gallon
90 percent believe gas is too high when the price reaches $4.00 per gallon

AAA says previously there was speculation about a tipping point at which prices affect behavior, but the new consumer index suggests there’s a new ‘normal.’ “After paying more than $3 per gallon for more than two years, most people have resigned themselves to paying higher gas prices and are cutting back on driving, shopping and dining out to save money,” Carlson said.

What changes are consumers making to offset higher prices? The survey confirms what most of us might have suspected: We’re driving less (86%), reducing shopping or dining out (71%), driving a more fuel efficient car (54%) and delaying major purchases (53%).

We’re also working closer to home (39%), carpooling (33%) and using public transportation more regularly (15%), the AAA survey shows.

Based on AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report (, the U.S. average price for regular unleaded gasoline is $3.51. Idaho’s average price today is $3.53. While Idaho and the U.S. average prices have not surpassed $4.00 per gallon since 2008, it is not uncommon for motorists living on the West Coast, near the Great Lakes and Northeast to pay more than $4.00 per gallon.

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Discuss this article

Bob Clark June 24, 2013

In some ways we’ve already seen this movie once before in the early 80s. The American automobile traveler switches to a much more fuel efficient vehicle. This time around to help out the reduction in gasoline use is the on-line shopping and payment technology.

I keep thinking we are going to hit a decade long or longer stretch where oil and gasoline prices remain relatively flat. The oil extraction revolution happening in America is bound to spread globally boosting non-OPEC oil supplies. China’s break neck economic development is slowing so as to slow global oil demand.

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