U.S. gas prices at Thanksgiving are highest since 2012

As an estimated 48.3 million Americans hit the road for Thanksgiving, they’re going to find that gasoline prices along their route are not to their liking.

Thanks to inflation, the holiday meal at their destination will be expensive to put together, and getting there will be a bit higher too. According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline is $3.40, the highest it’s been for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend since 2012.

In an era where more cars are turbocharged and require premium, the national average price for higher-octane fuel is $4.03. 

Diesel’s national average is $3.64.

California has some of the highest averages, with regular at $4.70 a gallon and premium at a hair over $5.

> Autoblog ‘Cheap Gas Near Me’ tool

For historical perspective, however, that $3.40 national average for regular unleaded falls far, far short of the highest average price AAA ever recorded: $4.11 a gallon in July 2008 — which would be $5.28 in today’s dollars.

Nor are current gasoline prices forcing anyone to stay home. AAA says predicted travel volume is up 8% from last year when pandemic social distancing was being taken more seriously, though this year’s level is down 3% from 2019.

Thanksgiving really is a drivers holiday, as the number of car travelers dwarves the 4.2 million who are expected to travel by air.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden authorized the release of 50 million barrels of crude oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an attempt to lower prices at the pump. But any effect that move might have on retail gasoline won’t be felt right away. And that amount might not increase supply by all that much — it’s merely the amount of petroleum that Americans consume in 2½ days.

Buick reveals wild GL8 minivan concept and Smart Pod concept in China

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Automakers with the highest customer satisfaction rankings

The American Customer Satisfaction Index reports that overall satisfaction scores for automakers stayed constant between 2020 and 2021. That’s good news, but a look at the past five years suggests that customer satisfaction in new vehicles isn’t as high as it once was. Back in 2017, the average score was 82 on a 100-point scale; for 2021 the average sits at 78.

Let’s get to the numbers, broken out by mainstream brands and luxury brands:

American Customer Satisfaction Index: Mass-market nameplates

  1. Honda (82)
  2. Subaru (81)
  3. Ram (80)
  4. Hyundai (79)
  5. Mazda (79)
  6. Toyota (79)
  7. Dodge (78)
  8. Ford (78)
  9. GMC (78)
  10. Nissan (78)
  11. Buick (77)
  12. Kia (77)
  13. Volkswagen (77)
  14. Chevrolet (76)
  15. Jeep (76)
  16. Mitsubishi (71)
  17. Chrysler (70)

American Customer Satisfaction Index: Luxury nameplates

  1. BMW (81)
  2. Lexus (81)
  3. Audi (80)
  4. Tesla (80)
  5. Mercedes-Benz (78)
  6. Cadillac (77)
  7. Volvo (77)
  8. Acura (76)
  9. Lincoln (76)
  10. Infiniti (75)

With an overall score of 82 (up 4% over last year), Honda leads all automakers regardless of what segment they compete in. Subaru, BMW (up 4%) and Lexus (down 1%) all tied with a score of 81, followed by Ram (which had the highest score last year), Audi and Tesla at 80. The lowest score of all came from the Chrysler brand all the way down at 70 (down 4%) and just below Mitsubishi’s score of 71 (down a disastrous 8% compared to last year). On the luxury front, Infiniti’s score of 75 is just below the 76s of Acura and Lincoln.

“Over the last few years, luxury automakers’ satisfaction lead over mass-market manufacturers has been slowly eroding. That gap is now almost nonexistent,” David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI, said in a statement. “In terms of style points and cool factor, luxury vehicles may still have the edge, but if you remove all the bells and whistles, the two are more similar than not.”

Not surprisingly, vehicle owners who received a recall notification in 2021 reported a lower satisfaction score (76) than those who went recall free (80). European brands had the highest average scores at 79, followed by Japanese and Korean brands at 78 and American brands at 77.

Breaking the numbers down further, mass-market-brand owners gave the highest scores in categories like Safety, Dependability, Driving Performance, Exterior, Comfort and Interior while scoring the Warranty, Gas Mileage and Technology categories poorly. On the luxury side, owners were most satisfied with Comfort, Interior, Safety Driving Performance and Exterior. The category that scored the worst was Gas Mileage. 

The ACSI scores were calculated based on interviews with 4,888 customers who were chosen at random. 

Looking for more information on customer satisfaction scores? Check out these automaker rankings from Consumer Reports.

Here's why you should back into perpendicular parking spaces

This came up on Facebook once. The question was rhetorical, I think. It was something along the likes of “People who back into parking spaces: Why?” I don’t think this friend expected genuine answers, but genuine answers there were. When all was said and done, I don’t know if this person ever adopted the backing-in method, but they clearly understood and empathized with those of us who practice it more often than not. There are great reasons that backing in is a better practice.

The implication is that you have to wait for the person to make such a maneuver. I suspect if you’re in a hurry to park, it could be frustrating, especially if the driver didn’t give enough indication of their intentions.

I haven’t looked at studies of this phenomenon, and I’m not sure they exist. But, anecdotally, here’s my experience, along with reasons I think that in the vast majority of situations, it is for both the individual and the greater good to back into a perpendicular parking space.

Parking can be just about as quick when backing in. Having the wheels that steer in back makes it easier to angle in sharply in reverse, reducing or eliminating the need to back out and straighten up.

Leaving the parking space is much quicker as you save another multi-part turn. More than likely, you’re making up more time on your exit than you sacrificed backing in. That saves everyone around you time, too. This is especially true for event parking when everyone is leaving at once.

It’s safer for you and yours. Backing out of a perpendicular parking spot in a tight parking structure meant I was putting my child (or anyone in the back seat) in harm’s way before I could even assess the situation. The proliferation of rearview cameras has helped. Rear cross-traffic alerts and automatic rear braking help even more, but we shouldn’t put ourselves in positions where we totally rely on this tech or, even worse, rely on others to see or anticipate you backing out.

It’s safer for everyone around you, too. You can actually see that person walking by on the way to their own car, and you can see that vehicle waiting for someone else back out.

It can save dings or scrapes. Whatever car I’m driving is more likely to have a rearview camera than to have one up front. With that camera, I can ensure I’m not going to scrape a splitter on a curb or tap a signpost or another car with my bumper. If I’m pulling in forward, I often leave myself enough distance to know my front end isn’t going to get mangled by its surroundings, which can leave my rear end sticking out where it’s more likely to get hit. Backing in and using the camera, I can close that gap as much as I want, tucking my car into its parking spot as deeply as possible. But hey, you don’t have to take my word for it.

What if someone encroaches too close so you can’t reverse? Well, what do you do when you parallel park on a street? You had your turn signal on (please tell me you had your turn signal on) to indicate where you planned on parking. They should have paid attention, and the onus is on them to figure it out. They get to decide whether to back up to give you the room back (assuming they can), or go around you.

Of course, there are times when it doesn’t make sense to back in. Maybe you need the extra space to load up the rear cargo area. With some electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, it sometimes makes more sense to park nose-in for easier charger access. And obviously, if a sign or parking attendant instructs you to park nose-in, you should listen, even if it’s a dumb rule … James.

So have at it. Just like I’ll leave you room to merge at an actual merge point, I’ll gladly wait for you to back into your parking space so I don’t have to wait for you to blindly back out of it later. This is the way.

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