New Car Buyers Aren’t Worried About Gas Prices–Yet

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When U.S. drivers are asked to name a “reasonable” price for a gallon of regular gas, the median price named is $2.50. When asked what price would “greatly” affect the type of vehicle you would consider buying, the median answer is $4.00 a gallon.

As of early Wednesday afternoon, the national average price of a gallon of gas is right around $2.95. Is $4.00 a gallon in sight? For Californians, today’s average price is $3.72 a gallon with prices already above ranging as high as $4.38 gallon in coastal metro areas and some inland counties.

Researchers at Kelley Blue Book surveyed more than 2,600 Americans on their attitudes about rising pump prices for gasoline and results were released Wednesday by Cox Automotive.

In addition to asking about the point where gas prices really begin to hurt, survey respondents were asked where they though gas prices would be in one month and in one year. Most thought gas prices would be “somewhat higher”: 62% in 30 days and 45% in one year. Another 8% thought gas prices would be “much higher” in a month and 22% thought the same about gas prices next year.

Researchers also asked about the role rising gas prices plays on plans for buying a new car. A total of 60% said it has no role while 40% said it did.

It’s no surprise, then, that among those who say high prices have influenced their consideration of a new vehicle, 48% are considering a less expensive vehicle and 39% said gas prices have no influence on the price of the vehicles they are thinking of buying. More than half (57%) say they are considering a smaller car while 36% said there was no change. Nearly all, however, (86%) say they are looking at vehicles with higher fuel-economy (mpg) ratings.

In “Quick Polls” on the Kelley Blue Book website (kbb.com), visitors were asked how rising gas prices will change their driving habits. Nearly half (47%) said nothing would change. When asked if the rising price of gas would make them consider a more fuel efficient vehicle, 40% said they were “likely” or “very likely” to do so.

Kelley Blue Book estimates that gas prices would need to rise by another 35%, to right around $4.00 a gallon, “to have a significant and noticeable impact on what is currently a healthy, robust auto market.” Objects in the mirror are closer than you think.