Fuel Demand Sees 22% Rebound

Late April saw straight increases in gallons of gasoline purchased for non-essential businesses.

May 15, 2020

BOSTON—COVID-19 continued to affect U.S. fuel demand in April, with gallons purchased on its worst day, April 12, down 62% compared with the best day of 2020 on March 13, according to the latest fuel demand data from GasBuddy. As various states have since re-opened non-essential businesses, demand in the final week of April rebounded 22% from the lowest overall week of gasoline demand in 2020 (April 5-11).

GasBuddy examined fuel transactions from Pay with GasBuddy. “Fuel demand is a significant economic indicator,” said Sarah McCrary, CEO of GasBuddy. “While April fuel demand was down compared to March, we saw consecutive weekly increases in gallons purchased and the number of active cardholders as the month progressed. We will continue to watch Pay with GasBuddy transactional data in the months ahead as states continue to reopen and the summer months begin.”

The year-over-year drop in fuel demand equates to an average purchase of 50 gallons per driver in April 2019 and 39 gallons per driver in April 2020. Fuel demand typically increases throughout the months of March and April as more drivers hit the road with the warmer weather. Year-over-year benchmarked fuel demand shows that COVID-19 influenced a peak drop of 41% the week of March 29, compared with the same week last year. Even as April fuel demand was down significantly compared with pre-coronavirus levels, gallons purchased in the last three weeks of the month saw benchmarked demand inch closer toward 2019’s seasonal rise, down only 31% from last year.

Select states that reopened saw even greater increases in gallons purchased than at the national level. The week of April 12 saw nominal demand percent increases ranging from 12% to 19% across Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia, paving the way for higher fuel demand for the remainder of the month. 

As states continue to reopen, employees return to work, and some travelers even embark on summer road trips, demand could continue to rise steadily throughout the summer. “The increase in fuel demand will heavily rely on how quickly additional states reopen,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “Given that gas prices will continue to be affordable, we could continue to see weekly single-digit increases throughout the month of May, with a significant increase possible if the situation improves more rapidly.”

According to GasBuddy's recently released 2020 Summer Travel Study, 18% of Americans are not planning on taking a road trip this summer, while 51% remain undecided and 31% are taking at least one road trip.

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