ALEXANDRIA, Va. – American drivers are much more likely than in years past to be hitting the roads as summer drive season begins, according to the latest NACS Consumer Fuels survey.
Nearly three in ten (29%) consumers say they will drive more in the coming month, an 11-point jump increase from a year ago (18% in June 2016), and a record high for the month of June. NACS, which represents the convenience store industry that sells an estimated 80% of the fuel sold in the country, has conducted monthly surveys related to economic issues since January 2013.
Nearly three in five (58%) of gasoline consumers report feeling optimistic about the U.S. economy this month, down 2 points from last month. Consumer optimism has tracked between 57% and 61% for the past seven months. Consumers in the South are most optimistic (62%), though optimism remains high across all regions.
Relatively low gas prices are fueling both consumer optimism and the anticipated increase in driving. Fully four in five (80%) Americans say that gas prices impact their feelings about the economy.
“Continued strong optimism over the economy and an expected increase in summer driving is great news for convenience stores and other retailers who cater to summer travelers,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives.
However, there are some looming concerns. While the median gas price reported by consumers remained $2.35 for the second month, nearly half of all consumers say that gas prices rose over the past month. Price increases were seen most in the West, where 53% say gas prices are higher than they were last month. By comparison, just 43% of gas consumers in the South report that higher gas prices are this month.
Given concerns over rising prices, consumers are slightly more open to considering behavior. Consumers say that if gas prices increased to $3.40 per gallon, they would try reduce the amount that they drive. This $1.05 difference between current prices and a price that would change behavior is the lowest recorded in more than a year.
The survey was conducted online by PSB (Penn Schoen Berland); 1,100 U.S. adults who purchase fuel for a vehicle such as a car, truck or van at least once per month were surveyed June 6-9, 2017. Summary results are available at nacsonline.com/fuelssurvey.