Pain at the Pump: Running on Empty
I have always heard that you shouldn’t let your gas tank run too low on a regular basis because it’s bad for your car (mostly from my dad). In my 10+ years of driving experience, I have let my gas light come on one time and it was in the last month (yes, dad, I listen to you sometimes). When gas is nearing $4/gallon, I’m just less inclined to pull into a station and fill up. I’d rather figure out how many miles I can drive before it is necessary. I’m also one to gamble – filling up when I see prices drop betting that they won’t be any lower when I really need gas.
In this month’s American Pulse survey, we asked consumers what changes they are making regarding their fill-up habits as a result of fluctuating gas prices. More than one-third are filling up less often by letting their tank run close to Empty, just under three in ten are filling up as soon as they see prices drop, and just under one quarter are filling up more often so that the cost isn’t as high each time they go to the pump. When breaking this down by generation, Gen Y-ers are more likely to make changes in general, while this youthful bunch and Gen X are likely the people you will see stranded on the side of the road because they let their tanks get a little too close to empty.
If they don’t run out of gas before they get there, consumers are making many different changes when shopping for groceries. Using coupons more often and purchasing only needed products are at the top of the list for Adults 18+. Boomers are the most likely generation to coupon, stay away from impulse purchases, and buy more store brand and generic. Gen Y and Gen X are the most likely to switch to a different brand because they are cheaper or on sale (hint to CPGers: here’s your chance to steal some share). Gen Y shoppers are much less likely to make a list and stick to it, providing room for some in-store promotion to influence their purchases.
When it comes to clothing, shoes, and accessories, two in five Adults 18+ are only buying sale items because of gas prices. Gen X-ers are least likely to peruse the sale racks while Gen Y-ers are the most likely group to be shopping at discount stores more often and, not surprisingly, shopping at malls less often. More than three in ten Boomers are making clothing, shoes, and accessories a smaller part of their budget.
While gas prices have been flirting with the $4/gallon average, I have yet to see the amount of walkers and stranded cars that were abundant when we first saw that mark in the summer of ’08. I keep thinking of the scene from Forrest Gump where he runs across the country with Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” playing in the background. It might not be a bad idea for all of us find some good running shoes (on sale, of course) and hit the pavement.
Source: American Pulse™ Survey, APR-12 #1, N = 3738
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