AAA: Lower summer gas prices could mean more road trips

March 28, 2019

Although gas prices have been rising for several weeks, AAA expects summer’s gas prices to be on par with last summer’s prices.

And that means more people will be planning road trips this summer.

AAA also expects the national gas price average this spring to reach $2.75 - 20 cents less than last spring’s high of $2.92. However, drivers on the West Coast and in the Rocky Mountain region will most likely see prices reach or exceed $3 a gallon this spring, which occurred last year.

“Cheaper crude oil prices have helped keep pump prices lower this winter,” Fran Mayko, AAA Northeast spokeswoman said in a release. “While we’re seeing the national average increasing now, spring pump prices for most motorists throughout the nation aren’t expected to reach last May’s average of nearly $3 a gallon.”

An AAA Gas Price survey found if gas prices remain lower than last year, one in three Americans would most likely plan two road trips this summer while 27 percent said they’d increase the distance of one. Of the driving population, Gen X-ers, rather than Baby Boomers, would most likely do both.

The AAA survey also reports lower gas prices would encourage many Americans to spend more and save more, although this varies according to generation and region:

53 percent of Millennials and 49 percent of Gen X-ers said they’d put their money in the bank compared to 44 percent of Baby Boomers;

Gen X-ers are more likely to step up plans to shop and dine out, drive more on a weekly basis or use more expensive gas compared to the thrifty Baby Boomers;

Southern drivers (11 percent) and Western drivers (10 percent) would buy more expensive gas while only 5 percent of Midwesterners and 7 percent of New Englanders would be willing to upgrade.

Historically, early spring triggers higher prices at the pump because of better weather, greater demand, and the switchover to more expensive summer blends, added Mayko.

However, this year, crude prices - which makes up about 50 percent of the pump price -- could increase because of OPEC’s pending production cuts and the US-imposed sanctions on Venezuelan and Iranian exports.

This past winter, crude prices averaged between $38 and $56 compared to last year’s $60-$65 prices.

The U.S., which is now the world’s leading crude producer, can offset these actions by stepping up production to help meet global demand, Mayko said.