New Study: Gas Prices and Summer Travel

New survey: Americans aren’t taking low, but rising gas prices into consideration when planning their summer vacation in their gas guzzling cars


Summertime always drives up the price of gas, even amidst the current slump at the pumps thanks to rock bottom oil prices. But this year, a new study by Walletpath reveals that a majority of Americans aren’t planning their summer vacation according to the rising, but still relatively low gas prices.


The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that American drivers will pay an average of $2.04 per gallon of gas this summer. That average is 59 cents/gal lower than last summer, and a 12 year low. So, despite gas prices rise from the record lows this January (when gas prices bottomed out at an average $1.996 per gallon), gas prices will remain relatively low this summer.


Walletpath was curious about how the projected low gas prices would affect Americans summer vacation plans, so they surveyed 200 people who were driving to their summer vacation destination this year to find out.

Relatively low gas prices aren’t affecting Americans summer 2016 travel plans


When gas prices surge in the summer there’s usually a round of stories about families who are struggling keep up, or even can’t take a vacation because prices are too high. So you’d think that when prices drop, people would have the opposite reaction: but Walletpath found that’s not the case.


The survey revealed that 37 percent will be travelling between 500 and 1,000 miles this summer. Another 34 percent will drive 200 to 500 miles,, 11 percent will travel over 1000 miles, and 17 percent will be driving less than 100 miles. But despite a majority of people traveling hundreds of miles to their vacations this summer, 55 percent said low gas prices didn’t affect how far they’d drive for vacation this summer. That means Americans aren’t planning on traveling further this summer just because gas prices might allow them to.


With a 12 year low for summer gas prices on the horizon, these numbers illustrate an indifference to the relatively low surge in gas prices. Will Speer, Gasbuddy Senior Petroleum Analyst: “As the U.S. petroleum oversupply has lowered crude oil prices, motorists have grown accustom to the resulting lower gasoline and diesel prices.”


And the level of comfort Americans have for gas prices is further illustrated in Walletpath’s survey when they ask about vacation habits and plans.


Walletpath found that 30.5 percent of people take a summer vacation every year, regardless of gas prices. But with the institutionalized popularity of summer vacation, that number isn’t so surprising. What is interesting though, is that another 30 percent of people polled said that they sometimes take a summer vacation, and that gas prices have  affected their decision to do so.


That means gas prices in the past have deterred Americans from taking a summer vacation, something our country has already been struggling with. Recently, a Glassdoor survey revealed that only half the country, 51 percent, take their eligible paid vacation and time off.


But this year, when Walletpath asked if people were intentionally driving due to the relatively low gas prices, 68 percent said no; and 64 percent said gas prices weren’t a factor in planning their 2016 summer vacation at all.



Even though Americans are driving bigger cars, gas prices still weren’t a factor for their summer vacation plans



Walletpath was also curious about the kind of cars people are using to drive to their summer vacation destination. What they found is that 28.5 percent of people will be driving  typically gas guzzling SUV’s. Another 25 percent of people polled will drive mid-sized cars, 12 percent will drive trucks, and 10 percent are driving full-sized cars.


So even with a majority of cars that aren’t typically energy efficient, most of the Americans polled didn’t consider gas prices to be a factor in choosing their summer vacation destination, or their choice to drive there.

And the Walletpath data is in line with what the experts predicted for 2016, “Driving and car purchasing habits have been boosted by the low price environment, with more miles being driven with less efficient cars spelling higher demand for gasoline” noted Speer.


Now, we can’t say more miles are being driven this year than in years past when looking at the Walletpath survey, but we can say that a majority of Americans will be travelling hundreds of miles for summer vacation in 2016, and they’ll be doing it in energy inefficient cars.


Savings at the pump will still have an effect


In the end, the extra savings at the pump may just fuel the economy. Although Americans surveyed by Walletpath say gas prices weren’t a factor for driving to their vacation this summer, or even a factor when planning their vacation, they do admit the savings at the pump will have an effect.

When Walletpath asked surveyors if the money saved on gas this summer would be put back into their vacation, a majority 59.5 percent said they will use the savings to spend more money on other parts of their vacation. That surge in money could mean extra meals out, more spent on local businesses, and more activities paid for in destination towns and cities across the country.