U.S. consumers managed high gas prices by driving less last year, but they still ended up paying 24% more for less gas, according to motor fuels research by NDP Group.
NPD's Motor Fuels Index finds that consumers paid 24% more dollars to purchase 1.7% fewer gallons in 2011 compared to 2010. The increased spending represents more than $76 billion going into gas tanks in 2011 vs. the previous year.
NPD said the results of the 2011 Motor Fuels Index, which continually tracks consumer motor fuel purchasing behaviors and attitudes, were reminiscent of 2008 when the national average price for a gallon of gasoline remained above the $3 per gallon mark for 12 months (November 2007 to October 2008). During that time, miles driven decreased by 55 billion miles.
Prices once again crossed the $3 threshold in December 2010 and remain well above that level to date. Miles driven never fully recovered from the 2008 declines, and consumers cut back another 36 billion miles through December 2011, NDP said.
“Consumers continue to modify driving patterns to purchase fewer gallons, but it isn’t enough to offset price increases at the pump,” said David Portalatin, motor fuels analyst at NPD. “There’s no doubt that the consumer is losing share of wallet at the pump despite trying to reduce consumption.”
According to the most recent Motor Fuels Index findings, through March 2012, consumers have already cut back another 1% on gallon purchases but have spent 9% more for those gallons compared to the same time period a year ago.
“Gas prices have continued to increase into the spring of 2012 with more increases expected,” said Portalatin. “And while seeing almost $4 per gallon on the pump is no longer the shock it once was, there is still only so much money in the wallet, and something will need to give in order to fill the tank.”