Experts don’t know how many Americans will hit the road for Labor Day, but they’re sure that filling your tank to travel this weekend will be more expensive than last year.
AAA typically releases holiday travel forecasts, but the auto club didn’t send one out this year because Labor Day “has historically been lower than the other holidays in terms of number of travelers,” spokeswoman Beth Mosher said in an email.
Data on gas prices released by AAA on Wednesday, however, show that drivers will pay more at the pump, compared to 2017. That’s despite an expected drop this fall in the per-gallon price of regular gas.
AAA predicts the national average will fall to 2.97 per gallon spike recorded in May.
“Labor Day signals the end of the summer travel season and the beginning of an autumn trend that normally leads to lower gas prices,” Mosher said in a statement. “In September, gasoline demand drops and refiners switch to a cheaper-to-produce winter-blend fuel, putting downward pressure on prices at the pump.”
That likely sounds good to motorists, but the 2.32 average a year ago.
The jump is even more pronounced in Indiana, where the year-to-date average is $2.74 : 49 cents above the 2017 average, according to AAA. The state ranks third among states with the largest year-over-year difference, data from the auto club show.
Hawaii (+54 cents) and California (+57 cents) had larger year-to-year swings.
A study from GasBuddy, which tracks gas prices, shows prices so far in 2018 are the most expensive since 2014, when the national average was $3.58 per gallon.
“It’s been consistently a more painful summer at the pump than what we’ve been accustomed to when compared to the last few summers,” Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, said in a news release.
That’s not likely to change, said Purdue University Fort Wayne economics professor Nodir Adilov.
World markets that could affect gas prices are stable, he said, and there are no imminent natural disasters such as hurricanes that could hinder work at refineries. A jump in oil prices from 70 a barrel this year likely drove the increase in gas prices, he said.
“Probably for this year, the prices will (continue to) be much higher than last year,” Adilov said.
Gas prices averaged $2.75 per gallon in Fort Wayne on Thursday, according to GasBuddy.
If high gas prices lead to fewer cars on the roads this weekend, the trend is not expected to extend to air travel.
Airlines for America, a trade organization for airlines in the U.S., announced this week it expects 16.5 million passengers to fly worldwide over the Labor Day travel period that started Wednesday and ends Tuesday. That is a 3.5 percent increase over last year during the same period.