AAA: How Much Is Too Much for Gas?

By Jennifer Geiger  on April 25, 2013

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According to a new survey from AAA, consumers have a clear breaking point when it comes to gas prices. According to the group's newly developed consumer price index, more than half of U.S. drivers polled consider gas at $3.44 per gallon and above too high and will change their spending habits to accommodate the higher prices.

AAA asked the following question to 974 drivers throughout the country: "At what price do you start to consider the cost of gasoline to be too high?" About 62% said that when gas hits $3.44 per gallon they change their driving habits and lifestyle to offset the additional costs.

"It is possible there is a new normal in terms of consumer attitudes now that gas prices have remained above $3 per gallon for more than two years. Most people have resigned themselves to paying higher gas prices and are cutting back on driving, shopping and dining out to save money," Robert L. Darbelnet, president and CEO of AAA, said in a statement.

The biggest lifestyle change reported was driving less — 86% percent said they try to cut back when gas prices spike. Reducing shopping or dining out expenses came in second with 71% choosing that option; third (54%) was driving a more fuel-efficient car. Only 15% of people polled said they'd use public transportation more regularly, and younger drivers in the 18-34 age bracket were more likely to opt for public transit than adults ages 35 and older. 

Other results of the survey include:

  • 46% believe gas is too high when the price reaches $3 per gallon
  • 61% believe gas is too high when the price reaches $3.50 per gallon
  • 90% believe gas is too high when the price reaches $4 per gallon

The survey is a timely one; AAA reports that the national average for a gallon of regular gas today is $3.52, and the average has remained above $3 for 28 months in a row. Tell us your gas price breaking point in the comments section below.

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Assistant Managing Editor Jennifer Geiger is a reviewer, car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats, many of them while driving a minivan.  Email Jennifer