Kuwait Oil Fires 1991 (US Air Force)
Panic Sets In as $4 Gas Prices Begin Appearing Across the US
Back in February of last year there was growing concern that unrest in the Middle East would result in record gas prices come the peak summer driving season, a scenario that nearly occurred as gas prices approached the $4 record set in the summer of 2008 but fell back after peaking at $3.90 in May.
We may not be as lucky this year as gas prices are well ahead of where they were in February of 2011, and $4 gas prices have already been spotted across the continental US in places like New York, Chicago and several locations in California.
Many analysts feel gas prices will exceed $4 a gallon across the US as early as this spring and reach as high as $4.50 by the peak summer months, possibly even $5 if tensions continue to build with Iran. The press has picked up on this in a big way especially as it factors into the upcoming presidential election.
Not surprisingly, visits to our popular fuel calculator app are soaring as consumers grow increasingly concerned about high gas prices and how they will impact things like upcoming vacations, commuting costs or car purchases. In fact January visits to Cost2Drive were more than double January 2011 and up 25% from December, and so far February visits are 20% higher than January.
But we’re not resting on our laurels, we’re getting ready to launch a whole new version of Cost2Drive.com with some great new features and a much improved visual design that we’re certain will delight our most fervent users.
Stay tuned for some news of the launch which we’ll be rolling out in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, we’ve recently enhanced our mobile app so if you have an iPhone check out the Cost2Drive iPhone app and never again wonder what it will cost to drive places.
Posted in Cost2Drive, gas prices, road trip, Travel, Uncategorized
Tagged fuel calculator, gas calculator, gas prices, iphone, iran, middle east, oil, road trip calculator, trip calculator
On Track to be Highest on Record for Holiday Season
Heading into the 2011 holiday season its beginning to look like getting a lump of coal for Christmas might not be such a bad thing as it can at least be converted into fuel for electric vehicles like the Volt and Leaf. Absent that, or a dramatic end-of-year retreat in fuel prices, we’re all going to be paying record amounts to drive home to visit family as gas prices are at historic highs for this time of year.
Weekly Retail Gas Prices: 1990 to Present (US Energy Information Administration)
Looking at the above chart of average weekly retail gas prices from 1990 to the present one can clearly see the two spikes in 2008 and then again this past summer. At first glance it appears that this year’s trend mirrors that of 2008, with gas prices rising rapidly heading into the summer months only to be followed by steep declines in the fall. However on closer inspection it turns out this is not the case.
During the 2008 spike a record high price of $4.11 a gallon for regular grade gasoline was reached the week of July 7th, a price which subsequently cratered to nearly half that amount by the first week of November. This year’s trend has been quite different with the peak price being reached much earlier in the year (May 9th) and the seasonal drop-off much less dramatic as gas prices are now only 14% below this year’s peak price of $3.97.
Taking a look at the historical price of gas for the first week of November reveals that gas prices are 22% higher than they were heading into the holidays last year and at the highest price ever for this time of year. This despite the fact that the Arab Spring is far behind us and the removal of Qaddafi from oil-producing Libya is no longer in doubt.
So what does this mean for gas prices heading into 2012? Although the US Energy Information Service doesn’t see a return to the near $4 peak we saw earlier this year, some analysts disagree. “I think we will see prices in 2012 that will break … records” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service.
Don’t be caught off guard by high gas prices this holiday season. Before heading home for the holidays be sure to check out the Cost2Drive website or our new Cost2Drive iPhone app to see what it will cost to get there based on current gas prices along your route. It will also help you save money by locating the cheapest gas at refueling points and displays the cheapest airfare so you can see if it will be cheaper to drive or fly home.
Something Unsettling as Gas Prices Reach Historic Highs
Earlier this year a new movie version of the famous Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged was released that depicted the US economy in a disastrous state by 2016 with gas prices at $34 per gallon. This no doubt unsettled the car owners in the audience who were already being pummeled by soaring gas prices for the second time in 3 years, and as unlikely as the above nightmarish scenario is, there’s no question that the persistence of +$3 gas prices is taking a serious toll on the constitution of consumers.
This became more evident last week with the release of a research report from the New America Foundation titled The Price-Induced Energy Trap. The report argues that consumers are in an “energy trap” because their ability to effectively respond to rising gas prices is limited and highly dependent on income levels, with the middle and lower income groups suffering the most. As a result, many of the desired outcomes of a policy-by-price approach (such as increased purchases of hybrids and other fuel efficient vehicles) are never realized because the neediest people cannot afford them, creating a paradox that defies traditional supply and demand elasticity curves.
Middle & Lower Income Groups Most Affected Source: New America
Putting mind-numbing economics lingo aside, the real story here is that as temperatures have fallen across much of the nation gas prices have not, at least not to the levels we’ve come to expect with autumn setting in. In fact, as reported by AAA and later picked up by the LA Times, gas prices are at historic highs for this time of year and 22.6% higher than the previous record.
In fact gas prices are rising much faster than incomes, so its hard not to feel a little queasy these days when glancing at the gas gauge and seeing it drop below a quarter tank. This likely explains why earlier this year AAA reported an upsurge in the number of stranded drivers due to vehicles that had run out of gas. Apparently many people were stretching out the intervals between refueling in the delusional hope gas prices would decline, a somewhat disturbing change in behavior that reflects the impact high gas prices have on people.
I’ll relate another rather disturbing episode I encountered this past spring on a trip from New York to DC. It was late at night, well after midnight, and I had stopped at a rest stop in Maryland to grab some coffee to keep me awake for the remainder of my journey (thank goodness Starbucks was open). As I left my vehicle I heard a woman’s voice call out to me, something about gas and getting home. I warily looked over and saw a woman of middle age waving me over from the front seat of what looked to be a 20-year-old Jeep Cherokee.
As I approached her she started waiving her wallet out the window. Did she want to show me her ID? Then I realized she was showing me her wallet was empty, and she explained that she needed money to buy enough gas to take her the 32 miles to her home. I handed the woman a few dollars, and then after thinking about it handed her a few more (unfortunately our Cost2drive iPhone app hadn’t launched yet or I could have given her the exact amount).
Something about the whole scene was upsetting. The woman didn’t look indigent, she could have been my mother and I doubt that she’s accustomed to begging for money. It made me recall some of the scenes from Atlas Shrugged, and as I got back in my car to head back to DC I started to feel a little nauseous.
Hundreds of Colleges and Universities Entered as Destinations
When we launched Cost2Drive we thought that college students might find it a helpful tool for budgeting trips to-and-from college campuses, as well as a way to save money on road trips like those legendary jaunts to spring break destinations.
Boy were we right! As fall draws near and gas prices remain stubbornly high we took a look to see if users were searching for colleges on Cost2Drive. We were amazed to learn that students are entering hundreds of institutions of higher learning as destinations on Cost2Drive to help them better plan their trips back to college.
So what types of schools are students searching for? It turns out a very broad spectrum of colleges and universities including some of the best known Ivy Leagues schools such as Yale and Harvard (its good to know they need help with math too) as well as lesser known community colleges like Sinclair Community College in Dayton, OH and Nassau Community College out on Long Island, NY.
Below is an interactive maps representing some of the institutions that people have been searching for on Cost2Drive. Do you see your college on the map?
We’re also including a list of the top 20 colleges and universities based on the number of user searches on Cost2Drive in July along with the current cost to drive to them from nearby metropolitan markets. If your school is on the list you can click on the link and it will take you to a results page where you can customize the route to learn what it will cost you to drive back to your college. When you land on the page simply click on the ‘edit trip’ link and add in your home location and vehicle information.
If your school is not on the list you can visit Cost2Drive.com and find your school using the new autocomplete feature we recently implemented. Cost2Drive will not only provide the estimated cost of the trip based on current gas prices, but it will also locate the cheapest gas at refueling points along your route. For trips over 200 miles Cost2Drive will also show you the cheapest airfare so you can see if its cheaper to fly or drive back to school.
If you’d like to have this functionality added to your school website we have a trip planning widget available for free and we’d be happy to help schools add it to their websites to help current and future students plan trips to the university.
To all returning college students: Happy Driving and have a great school year!
Cost to Drive to Top 20 Universities from Major Cities (costs are one-way driving a 2008 Ford Explorer)
- Cost to drive to Duke University from Washington, DC: $49
- Cost to drive to California State University – Long Beach from San Francisco, CA: $88
- Cost to drive to Cornell University from New York, NY: $39
- Cost to drive to Indiana University from Chicago, IL: $46
- Cost to drive to Bowling Green State University from Chicago, IL: $50
- Cost to drive to Marquette University from Minneapolis, MN: $63
- Cost to drive to Saginaw Valley State University from Chicago, IL: $61
- Cost to drive to Stanford University from Denver, CO: $248
- Cost to drive to Southern Methodist University from Phoenix, AZ: $199
- Cost to drive to The Ohio State University from Chicago, IL: $62
- Cost to drive to Harvard University from New York, NY: $39
- Cost to drive to Yale University from Boston, MA: $26
- Cost to drive to Texas Tech from Denver, CO: $109
- Cost to drive to University of Maryland from New York, NY: $40
- Cost to drive to University of North Carolina from Atlanta, GA: $80
- Cost to drive to University of Southern California from Phoenix, AZ: $64
- Cost to drive to University of Tennessee from Atlanta, GA: $40
- Cost to drive to Western Michigan University from Chicago, IL: $44
- Cost to drive to Virginia Commonwealth University from Philadelphia, PA: $45
- Cost to drive to University of Wisconsin from Chicago, IL: $29
Posted in Cost2Drive, road trip, Travel, Uncategorized, University
Tagged back to school, college, gas prices, harvard, school, trip calculator, trip costs, university, yale
New Trip Planning Tool Available Free to Travel Websites
Visit Tampa Bay Widget
Almost from the day we launched the site Cost2Drive.com people have been asking us for a widget version they could easily add to their own blogs or Websites. In fact a number of tourism sites like Visit San Antonio, Visit Philly and California’s Redwood Coast didn’t bother waiting and already link off to Cost2Drive to help prospective visitors plan better car trips to their destination (and for this we are VERY appreciative!).
Today we’re pleased to announce that we’ve built an iframe version of Cost2Drive that Website owners can easily add to their site by adding a single line of code. This is perfect for travel sites that cater to the drive-in market and want to provide additional trip planning tools to their users. With the average price of gas in the US still well above $3.50 a gallon transportation costs can easily eat up 20% or more of an entire vacation budget, so helping travelers better plan and manage these costs will give them another reason to visit your site, and more importantly your destination!
widget Results Page
To use the widget users simply enter the origin and destination of the trip (note, sites can insert a default destination as in the above example for Tampa, FL) and then their vehicle information. After entering this information the user clicks on the Find My Cost to Drive button and our Galculator takes care of the rest, returning the trip costs based on real time gas prices along the route.
We couldn’t fit all the great features of Cost2Drive in this small widget so if the user want to see more details, such as a map of the route or where to find the cheapest gas at refueling points, they can click on the See Details button which will take them over to Cost2Drive.com for the full results. For routes over 200 miles in distance they’ll also see the cheapest airfare so they can easily determine if its cheaper to fly or drive to the destination.
If you’d like to test out the widget functionality check out the live version on VisitTampaBay.com. Many thanks go out to Jeremy Fairley @VisitTampaBay for working with us to help define the specifications for these widgets in preparation for launching them on the Tampa Bay & Co. Website.
We’ll be posting a self-serve page shortly where you can go to grab the code for the widget and add it to your site. If you can’t wait and are interested in getting one sooner drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you hooked up!