What Would $40 A Barrel Oil Mean For Travelers?

Oil is now nearing a 4-year low as the world’s economic crisis keeps on truckin’, says the Wall Street Journal. Light, sweet crude (don’t you just love that term?) is now trading at 44.56 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. “The price was the lowest since January 2005 and more than $100 below oil’s record close July 3,” says the WSJ. So, what does that mean for travelers?

Christopher Elliott has a few ideas, here’s our favorite. It’s the return of the road trip!:

Here come the drivers! The Transportation Department has been complaining about a shortfall in road tax revenue. Wait until next summer, when a lot of pent-up demand to hit the road sees hundreds of thousands of vehicles unleashed on American highways.

See the USA in your Chevrolet… (before they no longer make Chevrolets…)

With oil prices spiraling toward $40 a barrel mark, what does that mean for travelers? [Tripso]
(Photo: improbcat )


Edit Your Comment

  1. ckaught78 says:

    It means I can finally take my International CXT out of storage.


  2. Graverobber says:

    The only thing $40 a barrel oil means is that foreclosed families living in their cars will be able to afford to comply when the cop comes banging on the window with his mag light and tells them to move along from under that overpass.

    • Brazell says:

      @Jonbo298: Yeah right you guys are. When I got my license — 7 years ago tomorrow, actually — gas was $0.97 in central MA. Yesterday I paid $1.69 to fill up, it was great. Six months ago I was in the $4.20s and $4.30s.

      Crumbling economy or not, good times for me :)

  3. Jonbo298 says:

    I will say, it has been absolutely NUTS how much oil has fallen since July, but the market has seen what greed does to the people who buy your product.

    I wonder if I will see 99 cent gas before all is said and done (living in the midwest, its a possibility).

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @Jonbo298: First time I came to orlando, gas was .99 at one station and like 1.03 everywhere else. That was 7 years ago, and needless to say even my dad was flummoxed.

    • nataku8_e30 says:

      @Jonbo298: I’ve seen as low as 1.359 so far. Honestly though, oil is a very inelastic market. A 1% change in demand can easily have over a 10% change in price. While industrial demand will remain low as long as worldwide economic conditions are in the crapper, increased consumer use of cheap gasoline could easily send prices skyrocketing again.

  4. courtarro says:

    Obviously the airlines will start removing all these new baggage fees and fuel surcharges, right?


  5. Starfury says:

    It means that I won’t have a $300 bill for gassing up my car.

  6. moore850 says:

    it means that my bicycle will cost less to repair, since the oil for the tire rubber is cheaper?

    • lincolnparadox says:

      @moore850: Typically, rubber comes from the latex in rubber trees.

      Plastics come from oil, tho…

      • LandruBek says:

        @lincolnparadox: The late, great bike guru Sheldon Brown says that the rubber in “all modern [bike] tires and most inner tubes” is butyl rubber, which is synthetic, i.e., from oil.

        He also points out that rubber is only a minor component of a bike tire, which is mostly fabric and wire. Huh, I didn’t know that.

  7. jbl-az says:

    One thing I won’t count on: for airlines to remove all the baggage, blanket, and other extra fees they tacked on. I wouldn’t count on them backing off from the fuel surcharge even!

    • ckaught78 says:

      @jbl-az: Most have already done away with the fuel surcharges, by just rolling them into the base price of the ticket.

    • litbruin says:


      Then f the airlines, it’ll be cheaper to drive across country for a vacation then fly if they want to try and hold all those fees.

      Greedy Bastards.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @jbl-az: Again, a lot of foreign airlines have slashed their fuel surcharges. It’s just the American ones that didn’t.

  8. youbastid says:

    It means that the roads will clog up again. Rush hour in LA has gotten 2-3x worse in the last 3 weeks than it was when gas was $4.50.

  9. Murph1908 says:

    Well, it would mean seeing more Hummers on the road (and not the fun kind).

    I am not a fan of high oil and gas prices, by no means.

    But I did sorta appreciate not having Hummers blocking my view of the road for a while. And the increased use of rail shipments tickled my nostalgia center. It’s not door-to-door, which is its main drawback logistically. But it is more fuel efficient to transport via rail.

    It just seems such a waste of decades of hard work when the rail system is allowed to die off.

    • Ben_Q2 says:


      What I do not get is the H2 and H3 (Hummer). Why I do no own a Hummer I know someone that does. He does let me drive it and its fun and all. We/He does not drive it on the street.

    • Chols says:


      Rail is still the cheapest per ton way to ship goods. They will never go out of style.

      I just wish passenger trains would make a comeback!

      • jamar0303 says:

        @Chols: Well, they’re trying in California. Now if the rest of the country could have a rail network like Japan’s… Can’t go trans-con in 6 hours, but a night would be doable.

    • BrianDaBrain says:

      @Murph1908: I don’t know what state you’re living in, but I want to move there. Even paying $4.50 a gallon, people were still driving their H2/3s and Suburbans around in Colorado. I never got a break from them blocking my view!

    • chris_d says:

      I’m pretty sure that no one has learned a thing. People will go back to driving aircraft carriers around. And then the price will go right back up. There’s probably no chance of doing something smart like investing in and expanding the rail network, bringing back passenger trains and other fuel efficient transit.

  10. squatchie44 says:

    I can actually afford to drive my truck toanfro work again. Nice. Not that i actually do except for Friday’s now, i got a commuter cars to not just save gas money but wear and tear and miles on the truck. One (minor) happy piece of a recession i suppose.

  11. unobservant says:

    It will mean that companies will no longer be able to use high oil prices as an excuse to jack up their prices.

    Super-duper poll: What’s going to be the next great excuse?

  12. dialing_wand says:

    I still drive like it’s $1.75/liter ($6.63 / gallon).

    There’s no reason fuel is cheap to decide to continue slaughtering the environment. Now that we’re mindful of how wasteful driving styles can be, simply maintaining that which we learned (a Scanguage II can help) during the high prices can help to continue to save money and have a lighter carbon footprint.

    Low price or not, my wife and I got into car pooling and taking public transit. Short of a long business trip for which the car is necessary, we now go through a tank of gas every three weeks and our car is pretty demanding on fuel what with it’s full time all wheel drive.

    • synimatik says:

      @dialing_wand: Hear, hear! It took this to make many people who weren’t looking after the environment to do so. I just hope many of them continue to and don’t go back to the environmental raping that’s been going on for decades.

    • ramthor says:


      Bless you car-poolers… cheaper gas and more road space for my Land Cruiser.

      PS — That tree you’re hugging LOVES oxides of carbon :)

  13. socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:

    To me it means I can afford to drive my car again. In june when it was costing $80+ to fill up my car (a sedan not an suv) it was just too much to drive the car. So it sat there, with me making the car payments on it and the insurance payments on it, and wasn’t being driven.

    I can see now why no one is buying cars. Mine became a bad investment. I know it depreciates in value, but i’m paying for something that I cant even use. Now though when It cost me around $30 to fill it up I’m driving it more.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @socalrob: Yeah I even gave up driving to work for 2 and a half months, still paying insurance and still paying for the car.

      I’ve decided in an attempt to finally be able to *save money* that I just throw my savings into the car and then I can start fresh and actually save with no debt!

  14. Ash78 ain't got time to bleed says:

    Cheaper deviant sex parties? Unless the price of giant plastic drop cloths goes way up.

    I just did a one-way 800 mile trip and tallied up all my gas–under $50. I checked and re-checked, because its been so long since I’ve taken a road trip for less than $100 in gas.

  15. BoomerFive says:

    I think it’s hilarious looking back at how many people were freaking that gas was gonna be 5-6 dollars a gallon before 2009.

    • eXo says:

      @BoomerFive: it still could be. When the price of gas swings back the other way, it will swing with a vengeance.

      OPEC will cut production further, while local oil companies will stop drilling new spots (relying on their current wells), while consumers ramp up demand again.

      Then all it takes is a hurricane to disrupt our gulf supplies and a symbolic (ie: doesnt accomplish jack) terror attack on an oil line in some country you dont care about, and bam – price is soaring past $150 a barrel again.

    • BrianDaBrain says:

      @BoomerFive: Also, without our current economic situation, gas prices would have gone up into that range. We were already at $4.50+ per gallon and prices were rising almost weekly. And, like exo said, when the gas prices swing the other way, the prices will take a very large leap.

  16. brandymb says:

    Now I can actually afford to put premium gas in my GTO again!

  17. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    The only thing that’s changing for me is that less money is leaving my pocket when I fill up my car. Cheaper gas doesn’t make me want to take road trips.

    • Ash78 ain't got time to bleed says:

      @ChildrenAreSticky: I assume from the post that we’re not talking about random desire to drive somewhere, but more like visiting family and friends, or taking previously-planned trips that you had to skip when gas was more expensive.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @The Name’s Ash78, Housewares: That makes sense because certainly I have needed to cut back on seeing family (every 3.5 or 5 months or so instead of every 2.5 or 3) because of gas, even if it’s a short enough drive that it doesn’t make a big dent (half gallon will get me there just fine).

        but for a lot of people it’s an opportunity to plan more road trips to go places, and I’ve never had a great desire to do that (other than to see family) because it involves paying for lodging, and paying for gas to get around once you get there…

        Of course, I want to plan a trip to NYC but there’s no way in hell I’m going to drive up there so I can pay $20 for parking just to get stuck in traffic. I’ll take the train or the Chinatown bus.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @ChildrenAreSticky: I am glad that gas has become reasonable so I don’t have to fly to my parents house instead of driving this holiday.

      As much as I despise the 7-hour trip, $50 is alot less to pay than $300.

      • racermd says:

        @Oranges w/ Cheese:

        I am glad that gas has become reasonable so I don’t have to fly to my parents house instead of driving this holiday.

        As much as I despise the 7-hour trip, $50 is alot less to pay than $300.

        Not only that, but you have your own vehicle to use while you’re at your destination.

        Nor will you be required to go through security theater to give up your toothpaste or nail clippers.

        Nor pay for the first checked bag.

        Nor sit on the tarmac for hours on end with nothing to eat and drink but crackers and water. And good luck with the restroom!

        Nor be forced to pay fee after additional ridiculous fee if plans change in the slightest.

        Nor deal with cramped seating around other inconsiderate a-holes.

        And, by driving your own vehicle, you can stop anywhere along the route to enjoy that charming small-town diner or gift shop (or, or, or) you might find.

        Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the actual act of taking a flight – I’m a 5-year-old at heart and still marvel at how something that big and heavy can get off the ground. I just hate all the prerequisites and tag-alongs that make the entire experience something I’d still not prefer to do if my only other choice was to receive a rectal exam by Wolverine.

        And the wife wonders why I keep suggesting road-trips over flying to our vacation destination.

        • TheSpatulaOfLove says:


          I have the same argument with my wife AND my boss about roadtrips. 12 hours or less behind the wheel? No problem! Even with the $4.50/gal gas…

          Fuck the airline industry and the TSA. I’ve had enough of their shit and refuse to forgo my civil and human rights to ride a flying greyhound!

        • pallendo says:

          @racermd: That was actually the argument for Driving from Ohio to California for christmas 2 years ago. Gas was hovering around $2/gallon for premium. It also let us stop off in Omaha to visit my grandparents. It ended up being cheaper to drive 3 days each way, and a night in a hotel each way (Ohio->Omaha->Park City->SF Bay Area), we got a hotel room in Park City for each way, than it would have been to fly 2 people. Plus, we got to spend a shopping/sight-seeing day in Park City, UT on the way out. Sure, it’s an expensive yuppie village, but you can still find Christmas deals if you look around and buy previous season’s stuff.

          It also allowed us to help out my grandparents with shipping stuff out to the rest of my family in California. I didn’t have to pay extra baggage fees for christmas presents to my (and my wife’s) family. My Grandparents didn’t have to pay fedex or ups to get the presents out there, and I had use of my new car while I was in Cali.

  18. backbroken says:

    I love the fact that the world is going to end because OIL IS SO CHEAP!!!!

    Meanwhile, it’s merely back down to the levels it was at 4 years ago, and if I’m not mistaken, the world DIDN’T end.*

    *-well, it didn’t end for those living outside New Orleans anyway.

  19. juri squared says:

    I am absolutely planning more road trips now that the price of gas is so low. It’s funny how, when the economy was “good,” nobody could afford road trips, and now that it’s bad it’s actually a good cheap way to get away for a bit.

    • mewyn dyner says:


      I’ve been thinking the same thought. I’ve wanted to get away for a while, and after a rough semester of school (calculus 3 and electromagnetic physics make my brain hurt!) it’s needed. This drop in gas prices couldn’t come at a better time. But now to quote Lenny (Simpsons) “If I only had somewhere to go.” :)

  20. kiltman says:

    It means I can drive my jeep more (now that winter is here)than my sedan. Other than that, my driving habits haven’t changed, I always try to squeeze as much mileage out of a gallon as possible. The freeways were definately much clearer this summer.
    Still hoping to get a bus line that will take me to work in under 2.5 hours (35 minute drive)

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @kiltman: Same – over the summer I took the bus because $4/gal was crazy. But it added about an hour to my otherwise 15 minute commute.

      • weakdome says:

        @Oranges w/ Cheese: Even when gas was at its most expensive here, public transportation still cost more. Sick.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @Oranges w/ Cheese: I really wish it was more feasible for me to have taken the bus when the gas prices were high, but I can’t walk outside too long where I work and while riding the bus probably isn’t unsafe overall, being alone and female has its drawbacks at 10 pm. But I was so tempted to try.

  21. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    I love it when they come out with figures like this… it seems so pointless. Oil was this inexpensive only four years ago! Come on, four years is nothing (though, considering what has happened in four years it is a significant number in this case).

    But I’ve been hearing on the radio the past six months “The dow hit the lowest point in 2 months today” “Oil is the lowest its been in 18 months”

    Come back when its a really important number, like 50 years. Sensationalist Journalism, sheesh.

  22. Don Roberto says:

    Lower oil prices? That’s TERRIBLE news! It means I may lose my job and my local economy could be headed south like the rest of the country. I live in HOUSTON. :-S Concerned…

  23. HFC says:

    If gas prices are still somewhat low next summer, I can take the family to South Dakota. We had planned a camping trip to Custer State Park a couple years ago, but gas was just too high.

    • lalaland13 says:

      @HFC: I have a good friend getting married next summer, and gas prices staying where they are now-about $1.60 here-would really help me drive there in my new car. Well, used car. But it’s an upgrade over my old clunker.

      But they are going to go up again, right? Just a matter of time, supposedly.

  24. emis says:

    I ratcheted my remote start time-out to 60 minutes… I need to make sure that my interior is 100% heated before I get in…. none of this 90% stuff I had when I only let it run for 20 minutes before getting in.

  25. banmojo says:

    what no one is talking about is WHY the price of oil/gas skyrocketed so high, and what we (and by ‘we’ I mean the US government) can do to regulate the practices that led to this travesty.

    To everyone who has taken a hosing on their oil stocks, I say “Good on ya, sir, good on ya!!”

    The rich keep getting richer, and the poor remain, by choice, woefully ignorant.

  26. AD8BC says:

    It means that next Friday when we drive from Dallas to Tulsa to see Glenn Beck’s Christmas tour, we’ll take the F-150 instead of the Focus!!!!!

  27. Con Seannery says:

    Well, for one thing, it hurts the chemical industry because people won’t buy raw materials until they need them urgently for fear of a price drop.

  28. concordia says:

    The only difference now is that I’ll be saving even more money since I’ve altered my driving habits and become better at planning my trips. I’ll continue to do so, but I’ll do so while also putting cheaper fuel in my car.

    Regardless, I’m still waiting to see how long it’ll be until the other shoe drops.

  29. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    @ckaught78: Because these stupid sort of oversized “passenger vehicles” are what got us into this whole mess?

  30. Sian says:

    Wait until next summer, when a lot of pent-up demand to hit the road sees hundreds of thousands of vehicles unleashed on American highways.

    Yes, hundreds of thousands of poorly-maintained cars overheating, stalling, and clogging up the highways to uselessness.

  31. azntg says:

    Oil hit $40 a barrel? Great!

    It’s probably good news for many places, but in my good ol’city (the one and only New York City):

    – The price of gas will remain steady at ~$2.25/gal. Presumably inflated by taxes to make up for the budget shortfall.

    – The cost of living here will keep going up, including food, real estate, tolls, taxes, etc. as the cost of just about everything goes down nationwide.

    New York has five more years to keep this up and I’ll call my 25 year relationship with the city and the state off.

  32. Gokuhouse says:

    It means I can take a trip across country and still afford to stay in a hotel instead of my CAR!

  33. Project_J187 says:

    I just love how I can only fit $20 worth of gas if I pull into the station with my gas light already on. Sure beats the $50 fill ups that haunt my dreams.

    • fashionista says:

      @Project_J187: $50 fill ups? That would’ve been a dream for me. I was spending $80 just to get to the 3/4 mark! And to think, I complained about gas rising from .99 to $1.19 eight years ago, right after I bought my first V6.

  34. davere says:

    I’ve seen several Hummers on the road in the last few days, something I hadn’t seen lately. People have such sort memories.

  35. MercuryPDX says:

    So, what does that mean for travelers?

    That if the economy were in better shape Hummer sales would be back on the rise? ;)

  36. Mikestan says:

    It means America will quickly forget about the need for Alternative Energy Resources

  37. ElizabethD says:

    What did y’all pay for gas this week?

    Me, in Rhode Island this morning: $1.67 (at Cumberland Farms store on Warwick Avenue near Job Lot, if anyone near me is interested)

    I was so happy to see that price, I nearly danced to the pump.

  38. elloGov says:

    Finally a trip cross country!

  39. courtneywoah says:

    These low gas prices aren’t here to stay. The fact that some of you on here were able to change your lifestyle is great! But how quickly you pull out your cars that you’ve somehow managed to live without as soon as gas prices go down. Lets not forget here that oil is NOT a renewable resource and therefore will not be around forever. The price is going to jump dramatically so be weary. If you can live without your vehicle or car pool, thats great! Don’t give it up because for a few weeks gas prices are going to be low.

    @Mikestan: great point! People are quick to forget!

  40. Trick says:

    Thank god. I was tired of the dumb Honda & Nissan I just bought three months ago. We had a Suburban, Excursion and Ford F-250 V10 that was killing us in gas.

    This weekend we are buying a new Expedition and Ford F-350 and if my credit is good enough, a Toyota Tundra for my daughter who turns 16 next week.

  41. JustThatGuy3 says:

    Time to impose a significant ($2/gallon) gas tax. Take the money and use to to reduce the payroll tax, which is the largest tax burden for lower-income Americans.

  42. I love the Power Glove. It's so bad. says:

    Maybe now I can afford to drive the 260 mile round trip to see my mother more than 4 times a year.

  43. synergy says:

    I like the pic with the story. :) However, we’ve not reached those kinds of prices yet. I will always remember stopping to fillup before my first real jgoing to work. The price was $0.89/gal. That was November 2001.

  44. endless says:

    Yes, i do actually love the term light sweet crude.

    love love love love love

  45. GoVegan says:

    I can actually fill up my car for less than $15.00. This is going to last though. OPEC will get their act together eventually and we will be paying 4 bucks a gallon again.

  46. CelesteAnius says:

    When do all those goods that went up in price because of the cost of fuel start to come down?