While drivers continue to enjoy current gas price lows not seen since 2009, they’re not optimistic about the longevity of such inexpensive pump prices.
Consumer expect gas prices to increase and end the year at $2.68 per gallon, according to the results of a new consumer survey released by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).
Even with gas prices still averaging below $2 per gallon nationally, consumers continue to look for the best deals. Nearly two in three (64%) say the gas price is the most important factor in determining where they buy gas, compared to only 20% who shop based on location.
Drivers also are willing to price shop: Nearly two in three (64%) consumers also say they would drive five minutes out of their way to save five cents per gallon. An even greater percentage (70%) would pay by cash if they could save five cents per gallon.
The survey results were released today as part of the 2016 NACS Retail Fuels Report (www.nacsonline.com/gasprices), which examines conditions and trends that could impact gasoline prices. The online resource is annually published to help demystify the retail fueling industry by exploring, among other topics, how fuel is sold, how prices affect consumer sentiment, why prices historically increase in the spring and which new fuels are likely to gain traction in the marketplace.
In 2015, lower gas prices led to an increase in driving, with American drivers consuming 9.2 million barrels of gasoline per day. Men were more than twice as likely as women (52% vs. 25%) to say that gas prices affected their amount they drove.
Consumers say they are aware of the increase in demand and the transition to summer-blend fuels that takes place every spring. More than two in three (69%) agree that demand causes gas prices go up in the spring and nearly half (47%) agree that the complexity of making and distributing different fuel blends for the summer to meet environmental regulations causes gas prices to increase.
With lower gas prices, more customers are also going inside the store. Overall, two in five gas customers (41%) go inside the store to purchase additional items, with drinks (42%) and snacks (31%) being the most popular items.
Even with gas prices at their lowest level to begin a year since 2009, 17% of consumers say that if they could tell a store owner to do one thing differently it would be to reduce prices.
“Retailers are constantly fighting to attract price-sensitive drivers to their stores, especially given that those fueling up also are likely to go inside the store. As retailers wait to see how the spring transition to summer-blend fuel plays out, they also are addressing consumer trends and preferences by offering more prepared food and healthy options inside the store. As a result, 2016 may turn out to be a good year for convenience and fuels retailers regardless of the price of fuel,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives.
NACS, which represents the convenience store industry that sells 80% of the gas sold in the country, regularly surveys consumer to gauge how gas prices affect broader economic trends. The results from this survey were part of a larger survey of 1,101 consumers conducted Jan. 7-11, 2016, by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates LLC.