How to Plan for Soaring Summer Gas Prices

As summer travel heats up, gas prices are hitting a national average of more than $3 per gallon.

This year’s summer road trip is going to be costly – gas prices are up more than 50% over last year and passing the $3 mark in many areas – but after a year of hibernation, demand to fuel up and hit the open road is continuing to rise.

As of June 2, the national average gas price is $3.041 per gallon, up from an average of $1.978 per gallon last year, according to AAA data. Local prices, however, can vary widely depending on the station and the timing.

“The national average will probably range in price from $2.75 to $3.75 a gallon this summer,” says Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “Most motorists should see prices fluctuate 25 cents a gallon higher or lower than where they stand today. But I certainly don’t see record prices happening nationwide.”

Though gas prices have risen following their significant drop during the 2020 pandemic, prices are still down significantly this year from the nation’s record high average of $4.114 in 2008.

Along with costs, demand is also on the rise. Experts say consumers are getting vaccinated and feeling more comfortable with travel just as the typical spike in summer travel is hitting. And in spite of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, which led to gas shortages across the Southeast in May, Jeanette C. McGee, director of external relations at AAA National, says supply is keeping up with the summer demand.

“The pipeline is in the rearview mirror, barring any future shutdowns,” McGee says. “In terms of supply, things are looking more normal.”

The only supply issue experts do anticipate this summer is a possible lack of truck drivers available to deliver gas in a timely manner. As a result, consumers may notice minimal gas shortages in some areas, particularly near popular tourist destinations.

“Overall the refining, marketing and distribution should be able to keep up with demand increases as the recovery continues,” Denton Cinquegrana, cheif oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, wrote in an email. “There is plenty of spare refining capacity to produce more gasoline if necessary, it’s the last mile haul that is a concern and could lead to some stations running dry this summer.”

Higher prices at the pump this year over last year are inevitable, but consumers can still end up overpaying for gas without some planning. Here are a few ways to cut gas costs:

  • Shop around and use a gas app.
  • Pay attention to state lines.
  • Practice efficiency strategies.

Shop Around and Use a Gas App

Don’t pull into the first station you see. Quickly checking a gas app to compare prices in the area and driving a few minutes away from a more crowded area can end up saving $5 or $10 at each fill-up.

Some of the apps available include GasBuddy, Gas Guru and the AAA TripTik Travel Planner.

Pay Attention to State Lines

California, Pennsylvania and Illinois are examples of states where gas can be notoriously expensive. Fueling before crossing into a high-cost or high-tax state can be worth the savings.

“Shopping around can save you 25 to 50 cents, up to a dollar a gallon by crossing from California to Arizona,” De Haan says. “Shop around no matter where you are, but especially if you are crossing state lines.”

On the other side of the coin, states like Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi tend to have the lowest state average gas prices. On June 2, the average gas price in Mississippi was $2.705 per gallon, the lowest in the nation, compared with the average price in California, which was $4.204 per gallon, the highest in the nation.

Practice Efficiency Strategies

Small efficiency habits can reduce costs and diminish the environmental effects of fossil fuels. These might include turning the air conditioning down or off when not needed, combining errands and removing bulky items such as a car top carrier when not in use.

“Plan ahead to combine errands so you’re not going out more than one time per day,” McGee says. “Avoid high traffic times and rush hour because you will sit in traffic and use more gas.”

Consumers can also consider using their most fuel-efficient vehicle when they have the option to do so, investing in a hybrid or electric vehicle, or taking public transportation when possible.