Americans collectively spent $388 billion on gasoline in 2018, averaging to 34 million fill-ups a day, according to the 2019 Consumer Sentiment on Gasoline Study.

The study finds that the necessity, perception, and price of gasoline adversely impacts Americans across all age groups and income brackets, with a staggering 86 percent of Americans depending on gasoline for their everyday lives.

The study found that respondents categorized gasoline as a household expenditure that is more important than other major expenses such as healthcare and savings/emergency funds, only behind groceries, housing/rent, and utilities. When given the choice, respondents would rather receive a free fill-up than find $20 cash on the street or getting their dinner bill paid for.

“Gas prices are extremely volatile and hard to predict, making it difficult to budget for. Yet, it is a major necessity for millions of Americans,” Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, said in a prepared statement. “In 2018 we collectively spent $49 billion more on gasoline than 2017. People, no matter their age, gender or socioeconomic background, are not only frustrated by how much they pay but the options they have in how to pay.”

Additional key findings:

  • More than half of respondents (57%) believe gas is frustrating to budget for
  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) say gas prices impact their ability to spend money on other items and services. This impact is especially felt by young people age 18-24 (70%)
  • Nearly 40 percent of people say that gas prices affect their mood
  • Half of the respondents say that gas prices help them assess the health of the economy
  • 63 percent of respondents believe gas prices are too high, even though gas prices are some of the lowest since July 2017
    Payment options are limited

According to the study, 25 percent of respondents purchase gasoline four times per month, with an additional 20 percent purchasing gasoline more than five times a month. The leading payment method is with a debit card (44%). Even with the rise of cash-back credit cards, only 38 percent of consumers pay for gasoline with credit, while 14 percent of Americans pay with cash.

“Not everyone qualifies for the types of credit cards that provide rewards on gas,” said DeHaan. “The fact that a majority (58%) of people are still paying with debit cards and cash is a sign there is a need for a payment option that addresses savings and convenience for the greater public.”

GasBuddy compiled results from a gasoline survey taken by 1016 respondents on Jan. 8, 2019.