If gas prices are stopping you from hitting the road this summer and you’ve got major FOMO, here’s what you can do to still feel like you’re getting away.
Summer drivers are getting some relief: Gas is getting cheaper as the nation moves deeper into vacation season.
Tuesday’s national average of $2.85 a gallon was down 12 cents from a month ago, according to AAA, and it could drop 5 cents more before backyard grills get covered and beaches hang their “closed for the season” signs.
“In May, we got right up to the $3 edge,” says Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS). “We’ve since backed off.”
Gas prices tend to rise from mid-May through early June, says Jeanette Casselano, director of public relations for AAA, the motoring and travel organization.
“This is influenced by the switch-over to summer gas blend, which is more expensive to produce and therefore increases pump prices,” she says.
The expectation of increased summertime demand from drivers also boosts prices.
But following Memorial Day, the cost of filling up typically eases after the switch-over to summer gas wraps up.
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Casselano says the national average for gas could go as low as $2.80 a gallon during beach-and-barbecue season.
But while welcome, the recent dip isn’t enough to erase a longer-term trend of higher pump prices. U.S. motorists are still paying nearly 60 cents a gallon more than a year ago, AAA says.
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Over the weekend, major oil producers Saudi Arabia and Russia pledged to lift crude production by as much as 1 million barrels a day, according to media reports.
But Casselano says the news shouldn’t affect the price of gasoline, which is refined from crude oil, until end of summer or early fall. .
For the remainder of the summer, seasonal storms and geopolitics could unexpectedly send prices higher.
“The biggest spikes came after hurricane impacts last year,” Kloza says. He says that a hurricane does not even have to reach land to affect gas prices since the refiners have to shut down as a precaution.
President Donald Trump’s looming sanctions on Iran and those on Venezuela, both giant crude producers, could also lift prices.
Regardless, motorists’ behavior isn’t expected to shift much. Experts say it would take a big spike for drivers to curb their travel significantly.
Gas would need to reach about $3.50 a gallon for people to make major changes, Casselano says.
“Summer is synonymous with vacations,” she says. “People are going to travel. If they’re driving they may change their final destination or eat less. But they’ll still travel nonetheless.”
In fact, a record 47 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more away from home for the Fourth of July holiday, up more than 5 percent from a year earlier, according to AAA.
A separate AAA survey from earlier this year showed that 33 percent of respondents would alter their travel plans if gas reached $3, but almost half (47 percent) thought that $3.50 would be a game-changer for their plans.
Even at that level, the price would be well below the highest recorded average of $4.11 reached in July 2008.
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