Lowest Gas Prices of the Year Just in Time for the Holidays

With this Christmas travel season expected to be the busiest in years, lower gas prices will be a welcome change for travelers. According to industry analysts, the average U.S. gas price is expected to dip below the $3.28 per gallon average that Americans saw at the beginning of the year. That is quite a big drop from the September average of $3.87 a gallon.

More Expected Travel Than Usual

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), over 93 million Americans will hit the road and log 50 miles or more traveling between the 22nd of December and the end of the year. That’s more than any year since 2006, so it’s a good thing for everyone that gas prices will be coming down as their driving miles go up.

Surprisingly, even with all the travel Americans will do this season, the amount of gas they will use is actually expected to be lower than any year in the past decade. This is partly because cars are becoming increasingly fuel efficient, but Americans still use a lot of fuel. The daily usage for the entire U.S. expected to be about 8.73 million barrels a day, which is still a huge amount.

Prices Vary Widely

While the national average is usually what the national media talks about, gas prices vary a great deal across the country. For example, the Midwest and South generally tend to have lower prices than other parts of the country, and the Northeast tends to have some of the highest prices, although even in the Northeast there are pockets of lower prices. Hawaii is an outlier, generally having the highest prices in the country.

Gas Taxes Take a Big Bite

One of the biggest causes for variation in gas prices is different rates of state gas taxes. One example of how big the variations are within a small area is in the Carolinas. In North Carolina motorists pay 39.2 cents per gallon in state gas taxes, but in neighboring South Carolina the state tax is only 16.8 cents per gallon. So, if everything else that impacts gas prices is the same, you’ll save more than 22 cents per gallon just by gassing up across the state line. It’s no surprise that people who live in North Carolina near the South Carolina border routinely drive just a few minutes for the lower price.

2013 Prices Expected to Stay Below $4.00

Chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS), Tom Kloza, projects the average U.S. gas price in 2013 will stay under $4.00 a gallon, which is some consolation to Americans who worry about rising prices. That being said, most Americans still view $4.00 as a high price to pay for a gallon of gas.

Apps Help Find Low Prices

With the big variation in gas prices, even in a small geographic area, many Americans have turned to the internet to help them find the lowest prices. There are numerous mobile apps that even let you check prices on your smart phone while you are out and about. One app, Gasbuddy, allows you to look for prices near your current location and it even lets you sort results in a variety of ways to make it easy to find the best deal for you.

However you go about finding the best prices in your area, you will be well served to check local prices before you pull in to gas up. With the big variation in prices your savings could be significant over the long haul if you play your cards right.