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Gas price needs to hit $2.50 per litre for many to shift habits: survey

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Car fueling at gas station. Refuel fill up with petrol gasoline. Petrol pump filling fuel nozzle in fuel tank of car at gas station. Petrol industry and service. Petrol price and oil crisis concept.
Car fueling at gas station. Refuel fill up with petrol gasoline. Petrol pump filling fuel nozzle in fuel tank of car at gas station. Petrol industry and service. Petrol price and oil crisis concept.

Most Canadians with access to a vehicle have changed their driving habits, or plan to, in order to cope with current gas prices, according to a new Yahoo/Maru Public Opinion poll. However, for nearly one-in-four, prices would have to soar above $2.50 per litre before they would rethink their routines.

Gasoline prices have climbed in recent weeks despite benchmark oil prices (CL=F) retreating from recent highs related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The average price of regular unleaded gasoline in Canada climbed to $1.814 per litre on Tuesday, according to the price-tracking website GasBuddy. That's up from $1.292 at this time last year.

Gasoline prices climbed 11.8 per cent on a monthly basis in March, following a 6.9 per cent gain in February, according to Statistics Canada's latest breakdown of consumer prices. A previous Yahoo/Maru Public Opinion poll showed Canadians are split on what's behind inflation at the fastest pace since 1991.

"This inflation is insidious. It is delivered in small fractions in different parts of our lives. It cumulatively has a massive impact on our habits," said Maru executive vice-president John Wright. "It's becoming evident that we are going to be hitting $2 per litre easily this summer."

A three-month view of oil and gasoline prices. (GasBuddy)
A three-month view of oil and gasoline prices. (GasBuddy)

Yahoo/Maru polled 1,325 Canadians between April 23 and 25. The results show 87 per cent either own an internal combustion vehicle, or live with someone who does. Among the group with vehicle access, 63 per cent say they have or will change their usage habits due to rising costs at the pumps.

In the last month, when prices across Canada averaged $1.70 per litre, 42 per cent of respondents reported cutting back on driving for necessities, such as grocery shopping and doctor visits. Twenty-one per cent say they only put "what is affordable" into their fuel tank, as opposed to filling up. And 14 per cent say they walked, cycled or took other non-motorized transit.

The price trend also saw:

  • 13 per cent consider buying an electric or hybrid vehicle

  • 12 per cent drive around in search of lower prices

  • 11 per cent take public transit, or increase public transit use

  • 6 per cent cancel a summer holiday by car

  • 3 per cent stop driving until it's more affordable

  • 1 per cent sell the vehicle

  • 19 per cent cite "other changes"

The Yahoo/Maru poll also looked at how consumers would respond to further price increases.

A jump from $1.70 per litre to $2.00 per litre would have the following impacts, according to the poll's results:

  • 65 per cent would cut back vehicle usage for necessities (grocery shopping/doctor visits)

  • 44 per cent would only put "what is affordable" into their fuel tank, as opposed to filling up

  • 34 per cent would take public transit, or increase public transit use

  • 31 per cent would walk, cycle, or take other non-motorized transit

  • 29 per cent would cancel planned summer holiday travels by car

  • 27 per cent would drive around to different gas stations to find the best price

  • 27 per cent would consider buying an electric/hybrid vehicle

  • 24 per cent would stop driving until it's affordable

  • 15 per cent would start carpooling, or do so more

  • 9 per cent would consider selling the vehicle

"I think it's a roadmap for the summer," Wright said. "We're going to see a significant change in people's desires and habits when it comes to using vehicles."

Slightly more than one-third of respondents (37 per cent) say they would not be impacted by an increase from $1.70 per litre to $2.00 per litre. The results show this group would begin to adjust their habits between $2.50 per litre and $3.00 per litre.

Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.

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