Grappling with Pump Prices

$4.33 per gallon: Mobile Auto Glass Shops Account for New Variable

By Chris Collier

The cost of regular unleaded gasoline scaled to a national average of $4.33 a gallon on March 11, 2022, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA) Gas Prices website. It’s the highest number on record. The uptick has hit mobile auto glass companies especially hard.

Managing Miles

“Mileage and gas weren’t so bad in the past, but recently it’s doubled,” says Rob Caffrey, owner of Set Autoglass in Davenport, Fla. “A full tank was about $40 or $50; now the pump stops at $75 no matter who you are.”

Caffrey founded his mobile business in August 2015, opening his first brick-and-mortar location on April 8, 2022.

“I’ll meet a customer at the 50th mile,” says Caffrey, who planned the expansion three years prior. “If they meet me at a nearby shopping center, I’ll schedule that within a two or three-hour window. But I will not travel outside my radius. That has kept me [balanced] with expenses, maintenance, and fuel.”

Xpress Auto Glass of Jersey City, N.J., has been always been mobile-only since 1993 when current 28-year veteran Victor Ng opened its doors. The 20-mile radius in which his business operates automatically incorporates a mobile service fee, but for jobs beyond that radius, he passes the extra costs to consumers. “I charge an additional $20 for every mile,” he adds.

A small 5% of Xpress Auto Glass’ sales stem from regions beyond 20 miles, but the number used to be higher. Ng says Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which has yet to cease as of April 8, is to blame. “I try to consolidate all [jobs] into one area for the day,” says Ng.

Trading Trials

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently signed Executive Order No. 292, which lifted the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency and the statewide school and daycare mask mandate. The step signified a return to normalcy for Ng’s state, which has enjoyed a retreat from the pandemic.

“People are mandated to go back to their physical place of work and travel,” Ng explains. “Things like amusement parks are opening up—[residents] are tired of being locked down.”

Superior Auto Glass of Grand Prairie, Texas, is more than 5,000 miles from Moscow, where Russian president Vladimir Putin wages war on Ukraine. COVID-19’s spread is slowing, but the conflict is yet another hurdle for Jaymie Percival, an owner forced to pass along increased adhesive prices to customers.

“My labor rate has gone up,” says Percival, who estimates she’ll spend $10,000 to $15,000 on fuel this year. “I’m now charging for urethane, and I never did before. I was typically charging about $175 to $200 on an average windshield install over the cost of the glass. Now I’m charging $200 to $250, plus $25 for glue.”

The Road Ahead

The White House announced a U.S. ban on Russian oil and gas imports on March 8, sending gas prices skyward. Russian crude oil and petroleum product exports to the U.S. represent 8% of all its imported oil, according to NBC News.

“I’m pretty well-stuck to Chevy Express vans because they’ve proven to be
solid for decades,” says Mark Lacy, owner of Sullivan, Mo.’s, Lacy Mobile Glass. “Some of the roads and driveways we go through are rutted and washed out, so it’s rough on a vehicle.”

Mobile work facilitates 80% of the sales at Lacy’s company, which he founded in May 2015. He filled up his 2018 GMC Savana 2500 and 2019 Chevrolet Express on March 31; the total ticked to more than $100 for each vehicle.

“You can’t pay me enough to take the time,” Lacy says of extending his work
radius farther than 50 miles. “If I add 30 miles to my service area, I could have done a whole [extra] job by the time I go there and back.”

The average national cost of regular unleaded gasoline sits at $4.13 as of April 8, according to the AAA Gas Prices website. That’s $1.26 more than April 8, 2021’s average, when it was a now-appealing $2.87.

“That’s going to curb a lot of driving,” Ng says of inflation. “Even though most consumers have received supplements and raises, it’s been eaten by inflation. Traveling and fixing their glass—if it’s not a priority, people are not going to spend money to fix it right now.”

Nice Wheels

Gas prices are going up, but mobile technicians have places to be. Scan their service vehicles of choice.

Rob Caffrey | Set Autoglass
Vehicle: 2019 RAM ProMaster 1500
Engine: 280 horsepower, 3.6 liter, V6 cylinder engine (gasoline fuel)
Combined Average Miles Per Gallon (MPG): 17.39
Current mileage: 60,000

Jaymie Percival | Superior Auto Glass
Vehicle: 2017 Ford Transit-250
Engine: 270 horsepower, 3.7 liter, V6 cylinder engine (gasoline fuel)
Combined Average Miles Per Gallon (MPG): 15.25
Current mileage: 105,000

Mark Lacy | Lacy Mobile Glass
Vehicle: 2018 GMC Savana 2500
Engine: 341 horsepower, 6.0 liter, V8 cylinder engine (flex fuel capability)
Combined Average Miles Per Gallon (MPG): 13.45
Current mileage: 80,000

Victor Ng | Xpress Auto Glass
Vehicle: 2018 Ford Transit Connect
Engine: 169 horsepower, 2.5 liter, V4 Engine (flex fuel capability)
Combined Average Miles Per Gallon (MPG): 24.81
Current mileage: 232,000

Chris Collier is a contributing editor for AGRR magazine.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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