Are higher gas prices impacting consumer habits?

Stacy Wescoe//June 22, 2022

Are higher gas prices impacting consumer habits?

Stacy Wescoe//June 22, 2022


People are not happy with current gas prices, which have been hovering around $5 per gallon in recent weeks. 

Whether they’re complaining loudly at the pump, or posting their displeasure on social media, many have been vocal about their displeasure. 

But are they doing anything about it? 

According to AAA East Central in Allentown, a recent survey showed people were ready to take action over higher gas prices. 

Spokeswoman Theresa Podguski said those the association interviewed said they would most definitely change their habits because of gas prices. 

“Prior to the gas prices being at the level they are now, more than half of those said they’d make changes if gas reached $4 a gallon. Three quarters said they’d have to adjust their lifestyle if gas prices reached $5 per gallon, which they have,” Podguski said. 

But despite their protestations, retailers are saying they’re not seeing any real action. 

Gregg Ciocca, who owns 27 car dealerships in the region, said there has been no rush on people dumping their larger, gas guzzling vehicles. 

“We haven’t seen them trading in for smaller cars yet,” he said. “I don’t see anyone panicking.” 

Back in 2008, when the last major jump in gas prices occurred, he said there were a lot of people trading in larger vehicles for more fuel-efficient ones, but so far that hasn’t occurred. 

Another trend from the last gas-price spike was people giving up their cars in favor of motorcycles or scooters for much of their travel. 

But, Blackman’s Cycle Center in Emmaus isn’t seeing a big boost in customers. Sales Manager Dave Shive said he’s been getting calls and interest, but not a lot of sales to people concerned about saving money on gas. 

Likewise, Mike Siemens, sales manager at Trek Bicycle in Allentown said he isn’t seeing a big change in customer behavior. 

He said there has been a slight uptick in bike sales and he believes some of that has been motivated by higher gas prices. 

“When people come in, we conversate about that,” he said. 

He said one of the reasons he thinks the high prices haven’t led to higher bike sales is because of the change in the marketplace since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

He said during the height of the shutdown many people were looking for outdoor activities and bike sales soared. Coupled with decreased bike production, that led to a shortage in bikes that is only now starting to return to normal. 

Ciocca said he believes it’s a similar situation with car sales. 

“There isn’t enough inventory,” he said. “There is still very low supply and very high demand.” 

He said people have been looking at hybrid and electric vehicles for some time, but they too are in short supply and can be much more expensive than traditional vehicles, which scares many away from making that initial investment to save money on gas. 

The current high gas prices haven’t changed that. 

Podguski said AAA sees changes in people’s behavior in smaller ways. 

“People say they are carpooling, reducing shopping or dining out,” she said. 

One area she said is definitely not seeing the impact of higher gas prices is travel. 

She cites the pent-up demand. 

“Things are opening up, even internationally. Travelers have more choices with less hassle,” she said. 

Even RVs, which can be expensive to fuel even when prices are lower, are still seeing strong demand. 

The national RV Industry Association said RV production was at its highest level in 2021 and it expects continued strong demand in 2022. 

The rationalization was that even though it’s more expensive to fuel an RV, other forms of travel have also become more expensive so it’s not as big of a difference. 

For those looking to travel over the summer months, who are concerned about higher gas prices, AAA does have recommendations for saving fuel and money. 

“Cruise ships may be the best option right now for cost savings,” she said. 

For those not looking for a cruise vacation, she said people can explore other options that decrease fuel consumption. 

For example, travelers can go to a metropolitan area with access to public transportation or good walkability.  

Vacationers can choose a destination where they can park their car and leave it rather than adding extra miles. 

She said resorts, with restaurants and activities onsite are also a good option.