Marketplace has a new podcast for kids, "Million Bazillion!" EPISODE OUT NOW

Americans, more than ever, are hitting the highway

Mark Garrison Aug 8, 2016
HTML EMBED:
COPY
One reason Americans may be starting to splurge on road trips: cheaper gas prices. Visual Hunt

Americans, more than ever, are hitting the highway

Mark Garrison Aug 8, 2016
One reason Americans may be starting to splurge on road trips: cheaper gas prices. Visual Hunt
HTML EMBED:
COPY

It’s hard to miss the sign for The Golden Door Motel, near Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. It has an enormous spinning door and ample neon. Lately, the “NO VACANCY” part of the sign has been glowing consistently. Owner Geniece Tyler says she’s seeing a nice bump in business, at least 10 percent from last summer.

Hers is one of many businesses benefiting from a massive increase in American road travel. Department of Transportation data show Americans on track to shatter the all-time high of 3.1 trillion miles driven.

One of the biggest reasons Americans are driving so much more is displayed on signs every driver sees, the ones where gas stations list prices. AAA’s national average for a gallon of regular is $2.12, about half a buck cheaper than a year ago. The savings add up.

“We think that Americans have saved more than $18 billion so far this year on gasoline compared to last,” said Robert Sinclair, Jr. of AAA Northeast. “That extra money it seems is being used to go out and take a trip.”

Besides cheap gas, there’s evidence that Americans are feeling better about their economic future, making them more comfortable splurging on road trips.

“Consumer spending and the latest job numbers, all of these make consumers more optimistic, especially when talking about discretionary travel,” said Tuna Amobi of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.