By on June 20, 2013

“Fewer drivers will take to the road during the Independence Day holiday in part due to a sluggish economy, but also because people will take less time off,” the  AAA told Reuters.

Gas is around 10 cents a gallon higher than last year, but that’s not what’s keeping Americans off the highways.

Americans are worried about the effects of the spending cuts, and hits from higher taxes because of the expiring Social Security tax cut this year, the wire says. \

The calendar also plays a role. July 4 fell on a Wednesday last year, which led people to take a longer vacation. This year, it’s on a Thursday.

Good for those who hot the roads nonetheless. Fewer people, fewer traffic jams!

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51 Comments on “Sluggish Economy Makes For Faster July 4th Road Trips – Even On A Budget...”


  • avatar

    Gas prices going up are felt immediately when you shop for food or when that same $20 doesn’t quite get you half a tank anymore.

    I’ve read that people who pay less for energy- such as Hybrid users- actually drive more- completely negating the environmental benefits of owning a hybrid (along with the higher energy requirements of building one instead of a regular car).

    I would wager highway fatalities decrease as fuel prices increase because the higher cost keeps people off the roads if they don’t need to be.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Fatalities per mile driven aren’t affected by that. That is an interesting phenomenon though.

      I don’t know if the effect is completely cancelled out. Someone with a 15MPG truck isn’t driving 1/3 as much as someone with a 45 MPG hybrid. They both have to get to work. The hybrid guy just might be the dude to take everyone to lunch or go on day trips on weekends.

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      Right, if it’s on the internet it must be true. Or maybe, just MAY BE, that hybrid users bought a hybrid because they drive more than typical in the first place?

      And as people drive less, their driving skills get rusty. E.g. the weekend driving crowd that commutes by public transport and shows up on the highways by 11 am on Saturday – they haven’t driven a car since the last weekend.

      Wow, heavy, I need another bong hit.

      • 0 avatar
        CelticPete

        We can debate why the cars are driven less or more but the fact remains that Prius drivers put on alot of miles each year. The average one drives 15,000 miles a year. That’s alot more then I drive.

        I think people would drive a whole lot more if gas was free. And a whole lots less if it was $10 a gallon. For a prius driver the relative cost of driving is lower and thus they drive more. It’s simple math and seems to hold up well in the real world.

    • 0 avatar

      TRAFFIC is a huge waste of fuel.

    • 0 avatar
      kingofgix

      I have heard that “people who own hybrids drive more negating the benefits” line many times before. Please, get a brain. It stands to reason that people who have longer commutes, are taxi drivers, etc. would buy hybrids because they stand to benefit from owning one. They don’t drive more because they own a hybrid, they own a hybrid because they drive more. That is obvious.

      • 0 avatar
        CelticPete

        There is proven correlation between gas prices and cars on the road. When gas prices go down – there is more traffic and more car accident and more miles driven. So its hardly a stretch to think all those priuses drive more.

        This idea that people mostly drive to work and back is the biggest load ever shoveled. What nonsense.. I wonder what percent of people on the road are actually driving to work.. I’d wage its under 50% that’s for sure. For plenty of people driving is discretionary. When gas prices get really high people start car pooling and moving closer to where they actually work.

        About the eating – average american eats on 4.2 meals a week or 1 in 5 meals. If you are eating out 10 times a week you are likely to be fat IMHO. Eating establishments scientifically design their foods to be eaten in large quantities thus driving up profits. Your home cook meals don’t suffer from that problem.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I’m always amazed at the effect gas prices have (at least in the media) on long weekend trips.

    “Hey honey, I know we’re spending five grand to rent a beach house with the family for the week, but I just learned the total cost of gas is going to be $212 vs $179 last year, so I think I’ll just forfeit the $1500 deposit and call the whole thing off.”

    I know the story here is about the overall economy, but the news always hones in on gas prices — typically the cheapest element of most trips.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Yes, this. “Oh that $279/night hotel rental is okay. I’m NOT spending $25 more on gas than last year. We aren’t going.”

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I don’t buy into this “price of gas thing” either. I’m in the camp that believes that MOST Americans don’t care what the price of gas is and that they’ll buy it no matter what the cost.

      I buy huge amounts of gasoline each month (more than 400 gallons a month) not only for myself but also for my two grand daughters that live with me and commute to school each day, and a wife who commutes to/from seminars where she lectures, 75 miles away.

      And then there are my electrical generators that run much more often than they should due to power failures and fluctuations in my area.

      I get X-amount of dollars in income each month and I do my best to use it all up each month. As the cost of gas rises my trips to Starbuck’s, Applebee’s, Chili’s, and other restaurants decrease, but my gasoline usage stays the same.

      It’s called redirection of disposable income or a re-targeting of discretionary spending. Not only am I addicted to gas, like most Americans, but buying gas beats walking.

      Although my wife and I won’t be traveling over the fourth, there’ll be plenty of people driving in from all over to celebrate with us.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I always feel people should just budget a little better to overcome their gas price woes. I have a very short commute (6 miles RT) so it’s not really an issue for me. If you’re one of those people with the average ~20 mile one-way commute, figure how much the gas increase is going to cost you per month. Then cut something else extra out to make up for it. Eating out comes to mind, or perhaps buying your lunch at work instead of packing a lunch. If you eat out with your family one time less per month (even if it’s just fast food) that’s probably enough to cover the increased funds spent on fuel (and you’ll be healthier for it). Or cut out that trip to the movies, use Netflix instead.

    People are too quick to bemoan the price variations – it’s a commodity just like anything else.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      It has already been proven time and again that when the price of gas goes up, the profits of restaurants, fast food places and coffee shops goes down. People will spend their money on gas no matter what it costs. Without gas they’re stuck and immobile.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      People HAVE been doing that, but we’re in our fifth year of the “recovery”, prices for everything are going up higher than the official inflation rate, salaries have been stagnant for years, and we’re running out of things to cut out. I’m amazed some of you want us to cut out complaining too!

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        The ones who complain are usually the ones who did not vote for the administration currently running things.

        In America, majority rules. Those who don’t like how the economy is being handled should vote to put their own candidates in power to change things.

        Besides, as has been said before by many, in America we always get exactly what we deserve, because we vote for it.

        And for at least the 47% of the voters who voted for Obama and the ‘crats, things are going just fine and it’s all working for them, living on handouts and freebies.

        For the working, taxpaying folks, not so much.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          Actually, “majority rules” applies to pure democracy. We don’t have that here, we have a constitutional republic. That means the majority governs, within the limits set by the constitution, until the next election. Some politicians and groups forget that.

        • 0 avatar
          Charliej

          As one of those who voted for Obama, I wanted to let you know that I don’t live on handouts. For twenty seven years I ran a business and provided jobs for a dozen people. I saved my money and sold the business when I retired. I took the money, moved out of the US and live a very nice life away from you complainers. Before I started my business, I worked for a national corporation. I did not like the corporate way of life, and instead of complaining, I quit and made a better life for myself and my family. If you don’t like how things are going, do something about it. Can’t find a job you like? Start a business. It is not hard to find a need and try to fill it. Then you won’t have to complain all the time. But, don’t give me that “working, taxpaying folks” crap.

  • avatar
    Motorhead10

    How does that guy ask $7500 for that Fiero/Ferrari hunk of junk? The window is duct taped in place. I realize people are in business to make a profit – but $7500 is insulting. Like he’s calling you an idiot right to your face.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    Who buys their lunch at work anymore? A few in management and some single people do, but anyone married with kids stopped that a long time ago.

    Eliminated cable three years ago when our health insurance premiums really started to skyrocket at work. Stopped buying soda two years ago as grocery prices started rising. Eliminated eating out for the most part when the last big property tax increase went into effect. Reduced the amount of meat we buy when energy prices started going up 2-3 years ago, especially electricity here in Ohio when all of the “alternative energy” requirements started going into effect. I’m just thankful natural gas has been cheap, but that is changing.

    This year we downgraded the hotel we stayed in when we took our annual trip to Myrtle Beach. With the expected increase in health insurance premiums at work for 2014, that will be about as much as we spent on our hotel every year. So, that will be eliminated for next year. Looking into taking the kids camping for vacations starting next year, which is what I did as a kid growing up.

    Dishwasher broke. After taking it apart and realizing after 14 years the motor and pump was shot, decided to buy a new one. Therefore, no holiday trips at July 4 or Labor Day this year.

    I work for a very large corporation in a very technical specialty. Got my biggest raise and bonus in 8 years this year, but as the country’s standard of living drops, and basics such as taxes, health insurance, food, ammo, and energy skyrocket, doesn’t close the gap going forward.

    My wife stays home – she is now working on Saturdays to ease our cash flow this year as my youngest starts preschool in the fall, which is not free.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I work in Ohio too (SW). I work at a company with about 900 people, and HUNDREDS of them purchase their lunch every day at work at the full-service cafeteria, which costs $6-9/meal.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Most people eat out at least twice a day, unless they just can’t afford it. Most people can afford it so the demographic targeted by eating places, especially fast food joints, is men age 22 through age 49, and to some extent young women who are tired of a Ramen noodle diet every night and who tend to go out as a group of three or four.

        Seniors are an especially desirable demographic for McDonald’s and Burger King in the early morning, offering tons of freebies to people over age 62, along with their staples like sausage biscuit and egg-mcmuffin.

        The lunch places cater to everyone because it is their make-or-break meal for the day.

        The Happy Hour places feature specials to beef up their evening and dinner traffic for those too tired to go home and cook.

        If the price of gas goes up, fewer people will have this discretionary spending cash available. The increase in the sale of peanut butter and loafs of bread is a great indicator of hard times.

        Best way to pay for all this lavishness is with cash. You should never use a credit card to purchase something that you’ll still be paying for long after it is gone.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I balk at your suggestion that most people eat out “at least twice a day.” For one that’s disgusting, and for two it’s not true.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            When my wife and I were both working, we ate out three times a day, 7 days a week, most weeks, because we went in different directions.

            There are no hard stats today on how many people eat out how many meals every day, but our society has migrated to eating out the majority of its meals since each individual could afford it.

            The people who can’t afford it, don’t eat out at all. It really depends on one’s income.

            MOST people in America are still doing extremely well if they are employed or otherwise independently wealthy. Car sales are up. Home sales are skyrocketing. People have money to spend.

            Eating out is actually much cheaper than eating at home. For eating at home there’s the grocery-getting, the prep, the cooking, the actual eating and then the cleanup.

            MOST people who can afford it will skip all aspects except the actual eating. But if the cost of gas goes up, their eating out goes down, right along with a drop in Latte sales.

          • 0 avatar
            mcarr

            “Eating out is actually much cheaper than eating at home. For eating at home there’s the grocery-getting, the prep, the cooking, the actual eating and then the cleanup.”

            @Highdesertcat, off topic, but this is the dumbest statement I’ve heard in a long time. You clearly have never prepared your own food. By definition, the restaurant will have to be more expensive because they have to pay someone to do all the prep and cleanup, AND make a profit doing so.

            Also, I think you have a different idea of “doing extremely well” than the majority of Americans. This too is a ridiculously naive statement to make in this day and age.

        • 0 avatar
          JuniperBug

          Where is this stat that “most people eat out at least twice a day?” That doesn’t jibe with my observation at all, including my own situation. I can count on one hand the number of times I’m in town and eat out per month. I’m single, have zero debt, money in the bank, make an above-average salary (not that that’s saying that much in today’s economy), and have literally dozens of restaurant choices within walking distance. Most people I know don’t eat out nearly that much, either.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I’d say you’re the exception – not the rule.

            We are closely associated with academia and the college crowd because my wife lectures at the universities, plus we have a grand daughter who attends one of the universities, and most of that demographic takes ALL their meals out and away from home.

            Trust me! I pay my grand daughter’s way and her monthly nourishment bill at the Club Med University Cafeteria is around $300 a month. And that’s not counting the food she buys with her own money to snack on after feeding time.

            Eating out includes a lot of places, not just a formal sit-down 4-star dinner with wine and dessert. Eating out also includes the fast-food places and pizza joints for a grab ‘n go meal.

            People my age, well into seniordom, definitely take most of their meals out and away from home, starting with breakfast at Mickie D’s for the free coffee and hashbrowns, lunch at Golden Corral because it is only $7 per person for the unlimited buffet and a quick snack at Taco Bell late at night because two tacos go down so easy when you have the munchies.

            The variety of eateries changes by day, subbing Burger King, Carl’s Jr, Wendy’s or IHOP, Denny’s, Chinese Buffet and the local pancake house, but it is kinda comical to see the same faces show up at the feeding trough every day. It gets to the point where you nod an acknowledgment when you see them.

            If I don’t have my one or two Starbuck’s during a day for energy, my eating expenses are usually anywhere from $10 – $15 per DAY. That’s pretty affordable for most people and without the hassles of shopping, prepping, cooking and cleaning up afterwards.

            The idea is just to eat enough, not gorge yourself like most Americans do at the AYCE buffets.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I’d rather have credit card debt than camp. I did enough of that for Uncle Sam. Camping in Ohio may be better than camping in (insert war zone here).

  • avatar
    vvk

    > Eating out is actually much cheaper than eating at home. For eating
    > at home there’s the grocery-getting, the prep, the cooking, the
    > actual eating and then the cleanup.

    I have a really hard time believing that, even with current grocery prices through the roof. Dinner for four typically costs about $10 at my house. Even fast food is more expensive than that. You will be lucky to keep the bill under $10/person at a reasonably priced restaurant.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Without all those people eating out every day, restaurants, coffee shops and fast food places would not be able to stay in business.

      Hence, if everyone follows your line of reasoning and eats at home, restaurants would not be able to keep their doors open. Most restaurants still keep their doors open, even in this Obama economy.

      But eating out is directly tied to a person’s income or personal wealth. People who don’t have the money simply do not eat out. That’s what peanut butter sandwiches are for.

      So judging from all the eating establishments available anywhere and everywhere I go, I’d have to stand by my interpretation that MOST people eat out every day. I bet Sysco would also agree with that.

      Eating out places also include Pizza joints since MOST young guys won’t even take the time to bake a frozen DiGiorno for themselves. If it ain’t microwave, it ain’t doable.

      I’ve got two young grand daughters who work at one of the local McDonald’s every Fri-Sat-Sun, and they tell me the lines are never-ending. To me that doesn’t sound like MOST Americans are hurting financially.

      But if the cost of gas keeps going up, people won’t buy any less gas but they could have less money in their pocket for the trip to Mickie D’s. The next step would be that Ramen noodle diet. It’s microwavable since even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have their limits.

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        Now I don’t disagree with any of this. I am just doubting your earlier assertion that eating out is cheaper.

        It is also a cultural preference, I suspect. I and my wife prefer to eat at home with our kids. Not only is it cheaper, it is more enjoyable to us as well. Also, I greatly prefer my wife’s cooking to anything I can buy at a restaurant. I myself make a mean chicken vindaloo.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I think it depends.

          A dinner at home of fish, watercrest, and blueberries is more expensive than going to Del Taco or McDonald’s.

          While a fired egg and potatoes is cheaper than pretty much any restaurant.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          A friend of mine is in charge of student nutrition at the elementary schools level.

          The kids won’t eat the school cafeteria food but she has seen many of them at one of the local McDonald’s right after school with their parent.

          Go figure!

          • 0 avatar
            wmba

            Good to see you’re getting a well-balanced diet!

            Gosh, if only more people would just realize that fast food joints prepare healthsome, wholesome food. It’s so good that it’s almost unrecognizable compared to the slop I prepare myself at home, so I can see why you’d eat out all the time.

            Sadly, my current inability to barely scrape by on meagre income has led me down the garden path of baking my own bread from that lowly ingredient known as wheat, and it does indeed taste worse than Wonderbread – I blame the lack of cellulosic content and extra salt.

            Once a week, in desperation, I whip up a pizza using leftover (weep) dough and fresh ingredients, but (sob, sob) my friends wolf it down, leaving only me only a solitary slice for my exertions, and landing me with the outrageous cost of the electricity it took to bake it.

            As I drive by the local strip of fast food joints at noonhour, I rage internally that my limited means prevent me from joining the crowd of cherubically-faced, waddling happy folk who have just wolfed down a gourmet treat that I can ill-afford. I then repair homewards, to drown my sorrows in home-prepared fresh soup of dubious quality and a hunk of crusty bread that only the birds warbling cheerfully outside would deign to consume beyond this poor human living in his paid-for cottage.

            At night, I have to choose between fresh fish, barbeque ribs, steak, hamburgers or maybe if the mood strikes me, baked beans, all of mean and non-merchantable quality. And I constantly worry about the ten minutes it takes to stagger from dining table to dishwasher to clean up afterwards and the wasted half-hour of my life it took to prepare. Such are the vicissitudes of retirement.

            Life is tough when you eat fresh food that costs only $35 per week on average per person. I long for the Mickie D life of culinary luxury and taste, and the size 46 waist its benefits bestow.

            Then I read TTAC, and my spirits soar! Why, it is possible to fool oneself into eating the wrong thing. Thank you HDC for your insights that will enable me to reach the nirvana of healthful eating on a mere $15 a day, and the avoidance of preparation and washing up; why, they have been the blights of my life had I but realized the truth.

            I’ll just finish off this pot of coffee, badly prepared in my $300 Dutch brewer using fresh-roasted beans from the roaster down the street.

            Yessir, today at noon I’ll get started on my new life with a Big Mac, fries, and a cardboard cup of flavorful McCafe.

            Tell me, what car do you drive?

            Update 2pm. I don’t feel so good, think I’ve got the runs. Any advice? IHOP pancakes with strawberry syrup garnish and a dollop of fresh whipped palm oil cream, perhaps?

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            What a douchey retort. It was, however, highly appropriate.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Thank you wmba, for bringing some reality and sanity to these ridiculous eating out statements that have been made.

            I felt that way, but didn’t have the time to type up such a full-fledged response.

            I could easily afford to eat out every meal – and end up ruining my health and wearing size 46 pants like too many other people. I eat at home, with food that I prepared, and save money every day. Added benefit: I don’t weigh 250 pounds because of it, and have ridiculous high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            Another single-malt melody. And for free!

  • avatar
    banker43

    The basics…..such as ammo?

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    With the amount of furlough days by local, state, and federal governments, you would think more people would have time off. Department of Defense civilian workers have 11 days to take. At least the squester budgeted some money for the federal government to try and find Jimmy Hoffa’s body.

    • 0 avatar

      Unfortunately, Federal workers who are forced to give up 11 days work must also give up 11 days’ pay. Add to that the fact that they have not had a cost of living adjustment in the last two years and anyyone can see that most of them, especially those who are lower in the ranks, are not exactly flush with cash right now.

      When people are feeling besieged the last thing they do is blow money on a vacation.

  • avatar
    360joules

    Depends on one’s point of view. To many people, the Feds are the people laying siege.

  • avatar
    Onus

    People could make their money go much further than they expect. It just takes a little planning and a bit of delayed gratification.

    The fact is salaries here are still high, maybe a little lower than previous but still very generous in my opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      And the vast majority of Americans are still employed paying the way for the unemployed and unwilling to work in America.

      From that we could conclude that the productive people worth employing are still employed while the unemployed were not worth keeping and not worth hiring.

      With the millions of unfilled jobs in America we have to resort to a general amnesty for illegal aliens so that the illegal aliens can do the work of those unfilled jobs.

      How ridiculous is that?

      • 0 avatar
        Charliej

        It is as ridiculous as your attitudes against the less fortunate. Your wife lectures at universities, so I am assuming that you have a good education. When you got your education, did they cut your heart out to make you so bitter against others? Or, is it just the republicanism rubbing of on you?

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Every season AAA makes these prognostications and the press dutifully reports them. I have always wondered why that is. Is this news? Does anybody ever go back and check if what they predicted turned out to be true? If so, how do they possibly measure it scientifically? I strikes me that it’s simply, like, their opinion, man (apologies to The Dude). Like guaranteed news blurb each Monday about the previous weekend’s movie revenues, these press releases don’t offer up much more than speculation and probably have more to do with keeping the AAA name out there to promote the organization.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    It sounds to me like the AAA guy is just speaking out of his as. He said the social security tax cut expiration will cause fewer people to take vacations. But when the SS tax cut went into effect back around 2010- did people really take more vacations? I doubt it. He said taht Jul 4th fell on a Wednesday last year, and falls on a thursday this year. I don’t understand how that’s going to cause fewer people to travel this year. If anything, most people probably have a 4 day long weekend off this year, instead of 2 days off in the middle of the week like it was last year.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      If it has a real net effect on people’s budget one way or ther other, it would likely affect their spending habits, which could include vacations.

      Sounds like you’re just interested in defending the administration’s tax policy.

  • avatar
    skor

    Wow! This story, and the comments, are loaded with Tea-Party derp…I’m not even going to being trying to pick most of these statements apart because, like my poor, little East European grandma use to say to me, “Never argue with the stupid or insane.”

    That said, I just can’t pass this one up. “MOST Americans don’t care what the price of gas is and that they’ll buy it no matter what the cost.” Right, because they can they can make their incomes increase at will. Yes, people can mitigate against rising gas prices in the short term by obtaining more fuel efficient vehicles and diverting discretionary income. In the long run they may be able to increase their income, and society may be able to increase efficiency overall, but eventually, lots of people are going to be doing a lot less driving if fuel costs continue to rise in real terms.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Loved your video. In today’s almost unimaginably rich world, jokes about worn out machinery have a certain charm. Schadenfruede without any guilt.


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