Lang Aftermarket iReport: 2019 gas prices lower than 80 years ago (when adjusted for inflation)

“The average retail price of regular gasoline in the U.S. was lower during 2019 (adjusting for inflation) than gas prices were 80 years earlier in 1939 during the Great Depression. The price of regular gas averaged $2.39 during 2019, less than the $0.19 per gallon price in 1939, which when adjusted for inflation would be $2.41.

“Last year’s average price of gasoline was one-third lower than the $3.63 per gallon average six years earlier in 2013. Moderate pump prices have contributed to the increases in total light vehicle annual mileage over the past four years.”

— Jim Lang, publisher, Lang Aftermarket iReport

Gas Prices Over 80 Years

Americans paid an average of $0.19 for a gallon of regular gas in 1939, when the country was still in the grips of the Great Depression.

Over the next 33 years, gas prices rose at a slow pace, with regular gas averaging $0.29 per gallon in 1972, just before the first of two oil crises that dramatically boosted gas prices over the next eight years.

Gas prices nearly tripled between 1973 and 1980, soaring from $0.44 to $1.20 per gallon. Gas prices plateaued over the next ten years, with the pump price in 1990 averaging $1.21. By 2000, retail gas prices averaged $1.45 across the U.S.

Gas Tops $3 at the Pump

Pump prices surged between 2000 and 2006, climbing from $1.45 to nearly $2.40 per gallon. Over the next ten years, the average annual price of regular gas at the pump rose dramatically. Gas prices increased to $2.77 per gallon during 2007, smashing through the $3.00 level during 2008 to hit a $3.22 per gallon annual average.

Gas prices soared to record-high levels during 2011 through 2014, ranging from $3.36 to $3.63 per gallon.

Pump Prices Decline Since 2013 Peak

Annual gas prices have declined steadily since 2014, falling to $2.43 per gallon in 2015 and $2.14 during 2016. The average price of regular gasoline in 2016 was more than 40% lower than the peak $3.63 per gallon annual price reached in 2013.

2019 Gas Prices

Gas prices at the pump averaged 15% lower during 2016 than ten years earlier. The average price of regular gas rose moderately during 2017 and 2018, up a total of less than $0.35 per gallon.

The $2.39 average pump price during 2019 was substantially below the average price of gas over the last ten years.

Annual Mileage Implications

There were only small increases in annual vehicle mileage during 2012 and 2013, as the number of vehicles in operation had recorded virtually no growth between 2009 and 2013.

However, light vehicle miles on U.S. roads climbed 3.2% during 2015 the largest percentage gain in more than 10 years and a reflection of the renewed growth of vehicles in operation.

Aftermarket Impact

Car and light truck aftermarket product volume in recent years has not always recorded a direct relationship with light vehicle mileage. For example, car and light truck product sales rose an average of nearly 2.5% during 2012 through 2014, despite the much lower annual pace of mileage growth.

Over the past two years (2018 and 2019), car and light truck product volume has increased at a stronger annual rate than light vehicle mileage.

Six Major Takeaways

  • The average price of regular gas in the U.S. during 2019 was lower than pump prices 80 years earlier in 1939 during the Great Depression, when adjusted for inflation.
  • Falling pump prices contributed to the surge in light vehicle annual mileage between 2015 and 2016 with mileage increases continuing at a slower pace over the next three years.
  • Despite gas prices rising between 2000 and 2007, light vehicle aftermarket product volume managed to record a substantial average annual gain.
  • Gas prices at the pump have steadily declined since 2013, falling from an average of $3.63 to $2.39 per gallon during 2019.
  • Fracking has produced an unprecedented surge in domestic oil production, with the U.S. now a net exporter of oil products for the first time in 75 years. Nevertheless, gas prices in the U.S. are still vulnerable to increases resulting from the world price of oil.
  • Electric vehicle sales in the U.S. are facing strong headwinds from moderate pump prices, which have contributed to the failure of EVs to reach the aggressive sales levels predicted by many analysts just a few years ago.

Copyright 2020 by Lang Marketing Resources, Inc.

NOTESpecial thanks to publisher Jim Lang for granting us permission to publish the Lang Aftermarket iReport.