Perspectives

The Impact of Gas Prices on U.S. Traffic Volumes

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As gas prices rise we are seeing Americans drive less for the first time in years.

Zack Lasky

Americans travel more during the summer than any other time of year but it seems as though gas prices may be having an impact on the amount of travel we are doing as a country.  Recently, we have all seen the rate gas prices have been rising at the pump when fill up our cars.  Normally, we just seem to deal with higher prices and budget it into our travel plans.  It seems as though there is a very real impact taking place, so lets take a look at some recent data released.

According to Princeton Energy Advisors, U.S. vehicle miles traveled posted a year over year decline in February 2018.  This was the first annual decline seen since 2014 where at that time oil prices were over $100/barrel.  Vehicle miles driven per capita actually peaked in August 2017.  Since than that volume has fallen in every month since November when oil prices were under $50/barrel.

This actually equates to drivers spending 19 less days driving per year than back in 2005.  This figure could continue to fall as well with this surge in gas prices, potential auto tariffs causing less Americans to purchase vehicles and the continued upswing in ride sharing apps.

U.S. auto sales pick up in June, increasing year over year despite prices at pumps.

At this point in time auto sales actually picked up in June, growing 5.2% year over year.  So far gas prices haven’t stopped Americans purchasing pickups, SUVs and crossovers as consumers have continued to transition to bigger vehicles.  If gas prices continue to trend the way they are, we may see a difference soon in consumer preference.  It would be my guess that between the influence of oil prices and the retirement of older vehicles that Americans may begin refocusing on fuel efficient cars.

In conclusion, we are still in the midst of an unprecedented rise in vehicle prices at the same time the cheap gasoline stimulus has worn off.  When we mix in the potential trade war over automobile tariffs there become many different factors contributing to the decrease in driving seen across America.  We will find out soon if this trend will continue.  Maybe we have just been trying to beat the heat and planned our summer vacations for later in the season.

Zack LaskyThe Impact of Gas Prices on U.S. Traffic Volumes

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