There has been an increase in reports of people across America reaching out for roadside assistance because they’ve run out of gas this year. But AAA says there is some missing context in that factoid.
The rate AAA is seeing is actually closer to normal than in the past couple of years. It’s not necessarily a reflection of increased gas prices, which are setting records almost daily.
From January through April of 2022, AAA said it responded to 194,317 calls for drivers who were out of gas. That’s about 1.8% of AAA’s total roadside assistance calls.
“Calls have increased since January, however, we believe what we’re seeing with the 2022 numbers is more of a return to normal than anything else, and not necessarily a direct correlation to an increase in fuel prices,” said AAA spokesperson Ellen Edmonds.
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Edmonds said that in the same period in 2021, AAA responded to 153,668 such calls. Compare that to 2019 when it was 205,549 calls for the same four-month period.
What’s the difference? While Edmonds did not specifically say the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not a stretch to believe the number of calls went down, in part, because fewer people were driving in 2020 and the first part of 2021.
Edmonds notes that AAA doesn’t ask drivers why they run out of fuel. So, she can’t give specific context.
“It is possible that the rising cost of gas is a factor but I want to make sure we’re clear that we don’t think it’s driving or the main reason for these calls,” Edmonds said. “The uptick is likely due to seasonal driving (i.e. spring road trips), people returning to work, etc.”
Edmonds said it’s recommended that drivers fill up when the vehicle is down to a quarter tank. Otherwise, the cost could be much worse than paying at the pump
“Regularly going past this point can cause costly damage to the fuel pump,” Edmonds said. “When a vehicle is nearly out of gas, the fuel pump does not have ample fuel to cool itself. So, in essence, you could end up spending more on a costly repair bill.