Gas prices – Do people really care?

By glblguy

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Over the weekend I headed to the NC Mountains to spend the weekend with my wife and kids who were already there. While driving up, I really focused on practicing some of the hypermiler techniques I wrote about last week. The main one being going the speed limit. While it did seem to make a big difference on my gas mileage, I literally felt like I was the slowest person on the road.

Numerous cars were exceeding the speed limit and many by a significant amount. This included the big gas guzzling SUVs and trucks. Watching these gas sucking vehicles driving by, I thought to myself: I sure hear a great deal of complaining about the rising cost of gas prices but see little evidence that people are willing to change their driving habits to save some money at the pumps.

According to a recent test performed by, reducing your speed and driving the speed limit will provide a 12-14% savings. On a $50.00 tank of gas, that’s $6 – $7.

A recent poll conducted by The NDP Group surveyed 43,000 and found that 12% of respondents indicated they’ve canceled their vacation plans for the summer. Another 12% said they are choosing public transportation instead of driving.

While I didn’t conduct any formal survey, it was very obvious to me that when people do drive their cars, they aren’t changing their habits overall. People are still speeding and even tail gate and get irritated at those of us that do drive the speed limit.

Is it that people just aren’t aware of the significant savings or do they just not care? I sure hope they just aren’t aware. If you chose to speed, fine, but just go easy on those of us that are trying to save a little money. Okay?

What are you thoughts? Are you driving slower? Are you seeing people in general drive slower? Add a comment!

28 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Gas prices – Do people really care?”

  1. Make Friends, Earn Money Says:

    really interesting point. perhaps it’s somewhere in the middle of both views. Perhaps it’s that people don’t yet care enough because these increased gas prices are not yet making enough of an impact on our wallets. I think that if the price increase continues for another month and people start reviewing exactly what they are spending on gas then they will start to take stock of the situation. I know what you mean about the whole speed issue, i’ve been trying to be really conscious of this but you do feel like the slowest person on the roads, but hey maybe that isn’t a bad thing.

  2. Pete @ biblemoneymatters Says:

    I think people like to complain about gas prices, but when it really comes down to it the prices aren’t affecting them as much as we think. I think people like to drive fast, and they like to drive their big gas guzzlers, and until the pain is too much to bear most people won’t change their driving habits even a little bit.

  3. Nicole Says:

    People don’t seem to be driving like they care. I still have people flying by me as I keep it below 60 mph. I have seemed to increase my gas mileage by 25%.

  4. Nicole Says:

    …through hypermiling. (Sorry, I forgot the two key words there!)

  5. Sylvia Says:

    I’ve had the same experience lately. I’m passed left and right most days by people in all sorts of vehicles (including monster SUV’s). In just my first effort though, I improved my mileage from 15.5 to 18.5 mpg. Not bad at all.

  6. Dan Says:

    What is your time worth?

    Say you commute an 30 miles a day each way (60 total). At 20 MPG, it takes 3 gallons to go to work, about $12.00. Slow down from 60 to 50 (make the math easy) and you’ll save by 12%, but it will take 10 min longer. At current prices, that means you’ll then be spending about $10.70 a day on gas, saving $1.30. Multiply this by 6, and you’re saving only $7.80 an hour by driving slower.

    I hazard to guess that most of those who drive an hour for work make more than $7.80 an hour. Therefore it actually makes good economic sense to drive 60 rather than 50. All those people are doing what it is in their best interest to do by driving that fast.

    Furthermore, when travelling with a group, such as on vacation, the amount of money saved per hour gets divided by the number of passengers. A trip with only 4 will save just $1.95 per person per hour by travelling more slowly. Maybe you enjoy the time spent in the car a whole lot, but for me, I’d sacrifice $1.95 for an extra hour at the beach vs. in the car when going on vacation.

    Bottom line, it will take a lot more than $4.00 gasoline to make people slow down.

  7. Momma Says:

    I’ve been paying attention to it for a while now. I use every hill as an opportunity to take my foot off the accelerator (Unless I’m on the highway). I have beend riving the speed limit, and when it’s hard, I set my cruise control to the speed limit to reduce temptation. I keep my foot off the accelerator as much as possible, especially when coming up on stop lights.

    My DH doesn’t do any of those things and I find that it irritates me endlessly when he stomps on the gas when the light turns green or drives too fast. This is most noticable when he’s driving the family in my mini-van, so I just ask that he remembers to treat my van like the prize possession of someone else who cares how well it’s taken care of. That’s the truth, afterall :) Not that I expect it to do any good, but a gentle reminder works far better than back seat driving.

  8. RobY Says:

    Good comment Dan.

    For some people (maybe most people) the gas savings doesn’t make up for the time expense of slowing down. I still drive 70 on the Interstate even though I know 55 is better from a fuel perspective.

    Now, avoiding quick starts and aggressive driving does make sense to me. That doesn’t make my trip much longer, it is safer and I save money on gas.

  9. Cortni Says:

    I have never really been concerned about gas prices because I have a small Honda Civic coupe that gets almost 40 mpg on average. However, recently my husband and I bought a newer Subaru Legacy that has slightly lower MPG because of its standard all wheel drive (which weÂ’ll need in the winter). This new car has an average MPG display that will let me know right away how my driving is affecting my average MPG, instead of having to wait until I fill up to figure it out. So after I watched it drop to below 27, I decided to change my driving habits to see how it would change. I only drive 60 on the freeway (used to go 65+), accelerate VERY slowly, let off the gas and break earlier when I have to stop, and more importantly we drive our Honda Civic around town now. My MPG has gone back up to 30 in the Subaru and I think having that number on my dash makes me accountable to the fact that how I drive really does determine my fuel efficiency to some degree.

  10. Clever Dude Says:

    Perhaps since you were going the speed limit, you didn’t see the hundred other drivers behind you going the speed limit and just focused on the hundred drivers flying by? Who knows how many drivers like you were out on the road that day, but you wouldn’t have seen them since you wouldn’t have passed them :)

    Me, well I still speed, but not as much. I drive a truck (honda ridgeline), but since I metro to work, I don’t drive nearly as much as I used to. I was able to get my rates lowered since the truck is now classified as a “pleasure” vehicle since I put low mileage on it. In fact, I filled up last night for the first time in 2+ weeks, although it cost me $70 to do so!

  11. castocreations Says:

    Oh man … I want to put a sign on the back of my car… “pay my gas bill or get off my butt” because I get tail gated so much now. And I’m not generally going UNDER the limit. Just speeding up slower ticks people off at the light. As if they are going to get to the next light any faster! And it cracks me up when they whip around me and then end up right next to me at the next light. I always wonder if they notice or feel stupid.

    Gas is up to $4.36 now and even though Dan is right that my time is worth more than the gas, I still hate to waste it. And I am not so sure about that 10 minutes. I’ve read (somewhere ages ago) that going 5-10 miles slower doesn’t actually decrease your time significantly because you have to factor in things like stop lights and signs, traffic jams, etc. I have literally seen this when someone whips around me on the freeway and takes off (going at least 10 miles faster) and then when I get off at my exit, there they are…getting off one or two cars ahead.

    Plus, going slower is more relaxing and usually less stressful for me. I’m not one of those trying to get around people or wishing people would hurry up. I am in the middle or slow lane on cruise control just enjoying the drive. :)

  12. "Mo" Money Says:

    I don’t think most people will change their driving habits that could make a huge difference in their mileage.

  13. Lynnae Says:

    I must live in the one area of the country where people actually seem to be changing their driving habits. Gas is well over $4 a gallon here, and you can tell. The other day I was driving 65 on the freeway (the speed limit here), and I noticed that I was hardly getting passed by anyone.

    In the town just south of me, there’s this one gas station that charges about 10 cents less a gallon than anyone else, and there are always cars lined up down the street just to fill up there. Meanwhile, the Texaco across the street sits empty.

    So I’d say here in Southern Oregon, people are feeling the pinch and adjusting accordingly.

  14. Evelyn Says:

    I drove on the interstate recently. I went 55 mph all the way to Dallas. The drive is over 200 miles. So roundtrip I saved half of a tank of gas. Yes, everyone was zooming around me. But I loved the savings. For me it was close to $25. I’ll take it.

  15. Nikki Says:

    your blog was an eye opener for me. i am the one that is always speeding past everyone. i have never been a slow a driver. after getting off the highway from a roadtrip this weekend, your article made me think about the money that i can save and what i can do with that money. with my son being gone this summer, i plan to take many roadtrips. thanks for the tip!

  16. That One Caveman Says:

    I cared enough to go out and buy a new bike and have tried to ride to work at least 2 times a week. I like the idea of using less gas and getting more exercise. I’ve been avoiding fast starts at traffic lights for quite some time and I don’t do any highway driving, so there’s little more I can do – outside of getting a new vehicle or driving less – to save more gas than I already do.

  17. PT Says:

    The media, including us blogs, have latched on to this topic and ran with it like it’s the most important story out there. I’m not immune. I’ve done it too So, I think a lot of this is just hype.

    I’m sure there are people who drive all the time that this is really affecting though.

    Interesting post.

  18. Becky@FamilyandFinances Says:

    I’ve actually had the same experience as Lynnae. People in my area DO seem to be slowing down. I went 66 on our 65 mph highway this afternoon and was going right along with traffic. I myself have slowed down over the past few months and many of my fellow Wisconsinites seem to be doing the same thing!

  19. fathersez Says:

    Over here, there seems to be a marked reduction in the number of cars on the road.

    People generally may be classified as careful or careless with money. The former will try to follow as many tips as they can to save whilst the others will bellyache but merrily carry on with their wasteful ways.

    Some of those drivers who seem not to care about the gas prices would be from the latter group.

  20. voiceovers Says:

    Don’t even get me started on how dumb people can act on the road. ;-)

    I think the bottom line is that our lifestyles are so fast-paced and our focus so self-absorbed that people really DON’T care about these things (maximizing MPG, for example). I know that I personally don’t give it a thought. I have things I need to take care of…I need to get where I need to go and that’s about it. I do respect the speed limit, and I try to drive courteously…but I honestly don’t worry about the price of gas or how much I’m burning beyond the very basic issues involved.

  21. Moneyblogga Says:

    I notice the same thing now that you mention it. I try to drive the speed limit for various reasons but mainly to save gas but I get passed by on the freeway as if I’m standing still. One really does have to wonder: Do people just not care about the price of gas and making what they have in the tank last longer? Admittedly, it is an effort to keep an eye on the speedometer and slack off the gas if I see myself approaching 65 or 70 but aside from the fact that anything here above 65 is speeding, do I really want another speeding ticket? I read on the news that the police are stepping up their traffic tickets to make up for budget shortfalls in city coffers. Are the traffic cops noticing that people are driving slower overall or not?

  22. Kiran Says:

    Generally I think that having the MPG display would be key to people slowing down. We do live in an instant gratification society. To determine your savings on driving slower you have to wait a couple of gas tanks (calculate your mileage on a couple tanks with your current speeding style, calculate it on the first two tanks after changing over to being a slowpoke) which takes about a month.

    Not to mention that most people aren’t going to bother calculating it anyways.

  23. castocreations Says:

    Kiran…I totally agree. I get funny looks when people see me write down my mileage, gallons, etc. But I watched my grandma do it 20 years ago every time she got gas and I do it now. :)

  24. Shaun Says:

    I have changed my driving habits, slowed down, coast to red lighs and down ramps and hills. I went from avgeage of 20-22 MPG to 25-28 MPG.
    I am in the process of installing a HHO system. To save even more.

  25. elizabeth Says:

    i do not understand the theory 55mph vice 70mpr saves gas usage? the extra driving time it takes to get where you are going uses gas … if you drive 2 hrs and use xxx amount of gas and drive l 1/2 hrs to get to the same place how much gas is used in both instances… i would like to see the math for this//// thanx

  26. Shaun Says:

    Keep it at 55 mph or under. This can save you 7-23%. Wind resistance over that really eats up fuel. Obviously, there are freeways with a speed limit of 65-75 mph so you don’t want to be a road hazard to other drivers. I’ll take it to 65 mph on these roads but occasionally have to speed up a bit. Be courteous in your quest for more mileage and don’t risk triggering someone’s road rage by driving to slowly and blocking traffic, it’s not worth it. The graph below shows how your MPG varies with speed. You can see that 50-55 mph will typically net you the max MPG.

    see the graph at this site