Americans Driving Less Than Pre-COVID 19

Three in five drivers cite gas prices as the main reason for hitting the road less.
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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Nearly half of Americans (45 percent) say they are driving less than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, citing gas prices as the main reason why, according to the latest NACS Consumer Fuels Survey.

Three in five drivers (60 percent) say gas prices are the main reason why they drive less than pre-pandemic, up sharply from the 44 percent who said so in the same survey conducted in February.

At the time of the most recent survey, gas prices were $3.50 per gallon, which is approximately 20 cents higher than when the February survey was conducted.

Among survey respondents, rural drivers are the most likely to say they have cut back on driving (51 percent) and most likely to say it was because of the price of gas (73 percent).

NACS found that only one in five Americans (21 percent) say they are driving more than before the pandemic. Approximately 58 percent of these drivers said more errands and responsibilities has led to increased driving, while 48 percent cite more social or family activities. Only 30 percent said that they were driving more because of a job.

A little more than half of drivers (59 percent) say they seek out a favorite gas station or convenience retail chain. While the most commonly cited reason for this preference was lower price (51 percent), they also favor location (48 percent) and quality of fuel (46 percent).

Even though gas prices have dropped dramatically from a record $5.02 per gallon in June, continued concern over high gas prices also has affected how drivers shop after filling up. More than half (54 percent) of drivers say they went inside the store the last time they purchased gas, down slightly from 58 percent in March.

Drivers filling up at a convenience store were also more likely to go inside the store than those filling up at a big-box store (62 percent vs. 47 percent, respectively).

The most popular items purchased for survey respondents who went inside the store after filling up were drinks (44 percent), snacks (30 percent) and food (14 percent).

Top services cited were using the bathroom (23 percent) and the ATM (12 percent).

"While retailers continue to face challenges in 2022, they are also finding innovative solutions to bring customers inside the store and grow basket size, something supported by NACS data looking at 2022 sales so far," said NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives Jeff Lenard.

The national NACS Consumer Fuels Survey was conducted Sept. 10–13 by Bold Decision, a national public opinion research firm. A total of 1,200 American adults were surveyed online, including 1,049 who said they were regular gas customers.

Alexandria-based NACS is the global trade association dedicated to advancing the role of convenience stores as positive economic, social and philanthropic contributors to the communities they serve.