Video: Americans brake for gas prices

By Martin Savidge Correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/15/2005 8:11:47 PM ET 2005-08-16T00:11:47

More Americans are now saying that filling the tank is putting their wallets on 'E.'

“I’ve already switched cars. I used to use a V-8, I switched to a 4-cylinder. What’s next... a bicycle?” wonders one driver.

In a recent poll, 64 percent of those asked said they expect fuel prices will cause them financial hardship in the next 6 months.  But folks who drive for a living say forget 6 months — they’re hurting now.

In Georgia, taxi driver Richard Dillon is spending more than $50 to keep the meter running. “I guess I’ve gone from working eight hours a day; eight to ten hours a day; to working ten to twelve hours a day,” he says.

In Washington state, farmer Eduardo Alvarez needs to get more for his cherry tomatoes just to get them to market. “A pint serving last year was running $2.49 a pint, this year we have them at $3 a pint.”

If we’re suffering at the pump individually, how long till the economy as a whole feels it? Retail experts already see signs consumers are putting the brakes on some purchases.

“They are cutting back on items that are more want-oriented — and that’s apparel, electronics, household goods,” says Michael Niemira of the International council of Shopping Centers.

And gas prices have already hurt one American icon: The SUV.

“We have a million SUVs currently listed, up 50 percent from last year,” says Chip Perry, president and CEO of Autotrader.com, the nation’s largest auto classifieds Web site.

Stephen Peluso is now driving his motorcycle instead of his SUV. “This is going to cost me $13 , but there was a time I could fill it up for $5,” he says of the motorcycle. “But this could last me a week while the Explorer just sits in the driveway.”

For many Americans, what used to feel like a pinch at the pump more and more is a punch.

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