(LOS ANGELES – March 19, 2012) – High gas prices are affecting most Southern Californian’s budgets and spending, but not significantly more than last year, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California’s new Spring Break Travel and Gas Price poll.
Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said the recent high gasoline prices have affected their household budgets, compared to 64 percent in last spring’s poll.
“One reason we may not be seeing a big increase in budget concerns from last year related to high gas prices is that even though they’ve climbed almost 75 cents since Jan. 1, prices were close to $4 during most of last year and so far, they’ve stayed below that next crucial benchmark of $4.50,” said Auto Club spokesperson Jeffrey Spring. “Also, we are hearing anecdotally from members that the rebound of the stock market has improved their budget outlook.”
Among polled Auto Club members who said gas prices were affecting their budgets, some top actions being taken in response to the increases are:
- Cutting back on unnecessary driving (81 percent)
- Spending less money on eating out at restaurants (55 percent)
- Spending less money on entertainment (48 percent)
- Putting less money into savings (43 percent)
- Seeking out discounts on travel and entertainment (33 percent)
- Using a member discount program (29 percent)
The survey also asked all those polled, “At approximately what price per gallon of gas do you think you will start making major changes in how much you drive or how much gasoline you use?” Twenty-eight percent said $4 a gallon was the critical price point, 15 percent said $5, and 15 percent said $3.50, while 10 percent said they didn’t know. Currently, the California state average price for regular unleaded is $4.36 a gallon.
“It’s interesting to note that the critical price point has gone up for most people as the gas prices have actually risen to new levels,” Spring said. “Last year, 63 percent said that $4 a gallon or less was a crucial price point for them and this year, it dropped to 54 percent. The higher price points of $4.50 and $5 a gallon were cited by 20 percent of those surveyed last year as crucial to changing their driving. This year, 28 percent said one of those prices would be their turning point.”
Spring advised those who will be traveling over spring break to budget for gasoline by using AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator at FuelCostCalculator.AAA.com. The calculator will estimate fuel costs based on the traveler’s make and model of vehicle and the route they are traveling. Travelers can also shop online for the lowest gas prices in any area of the U.S. using the free AAA TripTik Mobile app for Android and iPhone, as well as the online version at AAA.com/TripTik.
The 2012 Auto Club Spring Break Travel and Gas Price poll was conducted from Feb. 13 to Feb. 23 and surveyed 623 Auto Club members. It has a margin of error of +/-3.9 percent.