Fuel for Thought: Waze Users React to Dropping Gas Prices

Drivers in the United States received some very welcome news last week when they heard that gas prices are dropping. CNN Money posted data from OPIS (Oil Price Information Service) and their sister company, GasBuddy.com, who found that nationwide gas prices are dropping to lows that they (or we, for that matter) haven’t seen since 2010. They even posted this chart tracking the decline of the average National gas price since April 2014:

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Recent events notwithstanding, “cheap gas” is as much an oxymoron these days as it is a unicorn. About two years ago, we introduced a feature within Waze that let users add Gas Stations to the map while confirming the actual price of fuel for other users. It was quite successful- thousands of stations were added overnight, and today Waze boasts hundreds of thousands of gas stations in our database with users updating and confirming prices daily.

The Gas Station feature of Waze, though an incredible resource, is not its most frequently used. We do have some good guesses why ( and, likely, so do you):

  • Commuters tend to fuel up before and after their trips
  • Since 63% of commuters take the same route every day, they likely know and use the gas stations nearest to their homes and work)
  • People who go on long road trips tend to make as few stops as possible
  • People who do not go on long road trips (i.e. short city trips), don’t need to stop for gas as often

Nonetheless, a question remains!

How did Wazers in America react to fuel prices dropping? 

First, let’s see when the news cycle regarding the drop in crude really began. Checking Google Trends we can see that the News Cycle for “gas prices” peaked right around the time that the CNN Money article (and many others) went live:

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Pretty conclusive.

Now we have our range: October 12 – 19, 2014. This is when most people would have heard about the gas prices dropping, and may have started to pay extra special attention to fuel prices in their areas. According to help from the various articles, and the good people over at GasBuddy.com, we also have a list of the States where Gas will likely be cheapest, falling under that magical sub-three-dollar range:

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YOU’RE GOIN’ DOWN, GAS!! (courtesy of http://gasbuddy.com)

In case you’re wondering, the relative amount of gas stations in all of these states is fairly equally distributed. I don’t believe in coincidences, but I’m delighted. And it reminds me of summer. Or screensavers. Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 1.52.08 AM

So now let’s take a look at that 8-day period with respect to user activity for Gas Station updates in those 5 states. Please note that all of the following charts and graphs contain no personal information about the driver who updated or confirmed fuel information. The charts are only mapping number of updated gas stations and reported price confirmations. These are not user figures, but rather prove the point earlier that the Gas Price feature is not the one that Wazers use most. However, it clearly has had a huge impact. Check out the data from the week of media cycle:

Love it when a plan comes together.

What a bump!

We can then zoom out on the entire month of October (so far) and still note that 900 updates per day is a 12% increase from the highest update rate earlier in the month, which was itself likely part of the growing excitement of dropping fuel prices.

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Highest it’s been all month!

We expect that the confirmation / updating rate will decrease as Gas Prices stabilize because there will be fewer and fewer stations and prices to verify (because they’ll have already been confirmed by a user a few days earlier). You can already see this trend begin from October 14 to October 19. Note also that activity almost always declines over the weekends, as less people are driving.

Here’s the really cool thing:

Fuel prices are dropping everywhere. Not just these 5 super-lucky states- the price of gas is dropping even in the historically expensive states like Hawaii, California, and New York:

Highest it's been all month!

Start spreading the news. I’m saving .031 cents per gallon. In ol’ New York.

Not by much, but it’s dropping, and we’re still seeing peaks in October during the same Google Trends cycle for “Gas Prices”.


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And California:

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And now for the big finish- the entire world:

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Did you ever think getting gas would be this much fun?

Are you seeing the pattern yet? 

It’s no surprise that Wazer behavior follows national trends- the app data is almost entirely crowdsourced. But, to reiterate, the fact that the actions of thousands can positively (and anonymously) benefit a network of millions of people (who are, undoubtedly, also super-psyched about this whole “cheap” gas thing) is nothing short of remarkable.

Have you ever run out of gas? Ever needed fuel in a crisis?

It’s easy to take it for granted. But there will always be that day where you forget to fill up before you head home from work, from picking up the kids at school, from a dinner, opting to beat rush hour by taking the back highway with which you’re unfamiliar to save some time, and then that light goes on and that all-too-familiar yellow light appears, accompanied by the chilling “something-is-wrong” sound.

Then, at that moment, I guarantee you’re going to be happy someone identified a Gas Station on your route.