California’s price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline hovered around $6.42 per gallon on Tuesday, the highest fuel price in the country. The national average has broken the $5 per gallon plane and is now the highest recorded average in the US, and there’s no expected break on the horizon for drivers. 

Initially, drivers were uninclined to change their habits in the face of rising fuel prices, but that now appears to be changing. According to the latest Hankook Tire Gauge Index, more than three in four motorists say that “rising gas prices are now impacting daily driving.” 

Following nearly two years of restrictions due to the pandemic and immense upward pressure on costs for new and pre-owned vehicles, the hope of returning to normalcy has been pushed further down the road. It’s no shock to consumers or retailers that the high price of fuel is due in part to the Russia-Ukraine conflict that drags on, but it’s exacerbated by out-of-control inflation and other economic factors at home.

The prices at the pump have begun to affect how much Americans drive. According to the Tire Gauge Index, 54% of those surveyed have driven less in the past 30 days due to increasing gas prices. More than half of those asked also indicated that saving money on fuel is “the most appealing benefit of making the switch” to an electric vehicle.

JJ Park is Vice President of Marketing at Hankook Tire America Corp. He said, “After two summers of pandemic-fueled uncertainty, the latest Gauge results show that drivers eager to get behind the wheel are facing a new roadblock. While we can’t control gas prices, staying on top of regular vehicle maintenance, including the tires, can help mitigate additional costs along the way and maximize fuel efficiency.”

Fuel prices, inflation trigger spending on maintenance

The Hankook survey also discovered that more than one in four drivers has reacted to rising costs by performing their own simple maintenance services, and one in three is trying to make their vehicle last longer rather than spending on a new one. It’s clear that drivers are searching for ways to make their money go further, and that could be an area where service departments can serve their customers best.

Vehicle servicing was neglected during the heart of the pandemic, and some of that postponed servicing could be contributing to elevated fuel consumption now – a time when it costs much more to fill the fuel tank. Service departments can capitalize on the desire to make vehicles last longer by dialing up vehicle owners who declined maintenance over the last 24 months. 

Everyday maintenance items can help regain efficiency, with minor things like a dirty air filter robbing drivers of up to 10%. Dirty fuel systems, extended oil change intervals, a plethora of causes for a check engine light, and even low tire pressure can need attention that could restore a car’s fuel economy. Develop a campaign to attract clients concerned about getting the best fuel efficiency during these times with a low introductory cost. Perhaps offer free vehicle assessments with opportunities to recommend maintenance items that can restore performance. 

Since new and used vehicle inventory is sparse and pricing is still near record highs, switching drivers out of gas guzzlers is difficult at best. Instead, offer opportunities to squeeze the most mileage from every gallon in their current vehicle. 

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