Americans becoming numb to higher gas prices, according to new AAA survey

Closeup of woman  hand holding a fuel pump at a station.
Closeup of woman hand holding a fuel pump at a station.(Siam Pukkato | Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Updated: Jun. 27, 2019 at 7:09 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - How high do gas prices have to be for you to call them expensive? According to a new survey from AAA, more Americans are becoming numb to the so-called pain at the pump.

It comes down to this: we’ve just gotten used to higher prices. Take a look at gas prices for the Carolinas on today’s date - June 27 - over the past four years. 2017 was the lowest price for both states: $2.09 for North Carolina and a $1.91 for the Palmetto state!

(Source: AAA Carolinas)
(Source: AAA Carolinas)

But with all the fluctuations, AAA’s survey revealed most of us don't even flinch when seeing prices like today's average which is $2.66 for a gallon of unleaded.

And at least one driver I talked to -- Lamont George, agreed.

“I’ve grown accustomed to it,” he admitted. “The fluctuating prices up and down. We’ve just learned to accept that it’s our norm. You know gas prices are up, gas prices are down. You know they’re eventually going back up so we just take it as our normal day.”

George’s car requires premium gas so he’s got used to the higher prices in a hurry. When I asked him what price point he considered expensive he told me, “Well, I’ve seen gas as high as $3.15, $3.25 a gallon.”

But according to the AAA’s 2019 Gas Price survey, his answer isn't far off the mark.

It found 50 percent of consumers think paying $3 a gallon is too high. That’s an increase of 30-cents over last year when half of consumers reported $2.70 as too expensive. 2019′s price point is also 50 cents more than in 2016, when half of consumers thought $2.50 was too much to pay at the pump.

(Source: AAA Carolinas)
(Source: AAA Carolinas)

It all indicates that our sensitivity to rising gas prices has dropped significantly.

“When you see the gas prices dropping and maybe dip down to 2-15, 2-20 you consider that a blessing but the average price of 275 250 that’s kind of like an average price,” George said.

Bobby Williams, another driver said he will pay whatever price he sees to get around.

“That’s the price you pay if you want to drive,” he said matter-of-factly. “You pay the man’s price or you stay at home.”

Williams also isn’t a fan of comparing prices either.

“I don’t ride around gas shopping,” he said. “If it’s three dollars here and I need gas I’ll stop and get gas. It doesn’t matter. 26:01 you know, people ride around looking for cheaper gas, they burn more gas riding around looking for cheaper gas then if they just go ahead and get it where they are.”

Still, the survey found 74 percent of Americans say they start making lifestyle changes to offset higher gas prices. And, nearly a quarter – 24 percent -- start driving less, combining errands or trips, cutting back on shopping and eating out or even delaying making a major purchase.

Copyright 2019 WBTV. All rights reserved.