New technologies are emerging fast, with electric cars expected to hit the market in a couple years. But the question is no longer when gas prices will fall, but when will the next spike come?
"Everywhere you go, be it the store, the diner, whatever, you hear people talking about their gas costs and how they need to cut back, said David Robinson, 67, while a friend filled up in Lakewood, N.J. "You still hear it, even though gas keeps dropping."
Even automakers that have long relied on big trucks for profits are moving in a new direction.
Ford Motor Co. is changing from a truck to a car company in North America. General Motors Corp. is closing four factories that make pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. It will also open a new plant to make four-cylinder engines for the Chevrolet Volt electric car and Chevrolet Cruze compact.
The shift in consumer behavior was noted by AAA in December, when vehicle miles traveled began to slip. Regular gasoline had just risen above $3 a gallon during a month when gas prices usually fall.
By July, regular unleaded gasoline set a record national average of $4.11 a gallon.
The slackening demand for fuel is backed up by industry analysts, who say there has not been such a drastic shift in driving behavior in decades. Demand for gasoline dropped 6 percent over a couple months.
"For most of this decade, we've seen uncertainty manifest itself in the oil markets" in terms of supply," said Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, N.J. "This is probably the most depressive period" consumers have seen in a generation.
Gas prices fell again Friday to a national average of $3.35.
Prices dipped below $3 a gallon on average in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. If crude keeps falling, the rest of country should see gasoline selling for less than $3 in the next few weeks or sooner, experts say.
In the Denver suburb of Wheat Ridge, Clarke Soule paid $3.31 a gallon to fill his Lincoln Navigator. The self-described ultra-conservative blames the high prices on drilling bans on the outer continental shelf and in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
"I worked 47 years for AT&T, and when I want to buy something, I buy it," said Soule, 65.
For many Americans, the big car is too ingrained as a way of life to let go, said Kit Yarrow, a Golden Gate University psychologist who researches the effects of oil prices on consumer behavior.
"Driving is just so central to their lives, their feelings of freedom and so on, that they're to going to do what they're going to do," she said.
But for most other drivers, that way of thinking has been abandoned.