Americans paid cheapest quarterly gas prices in 12 years, AAA reports
Americans paid the cheapest quarterly gas prices in 12 years during the first three months of 2016, according to AAA.
Americans have saved nearly $10 billion on gas so far this year compared to the same period in 2015. The national average price of gas during the first quarter was $1.86 per gallon, making it the cheapest quarter for gasoline since January-March 2004. Gas prices are expected to remain relatively low compared to recent years, though average prices could rise another 25 cents per gallon by Memorial Day.
The national average price of gas on March 31 was $2.06 per gallon, which is the lowest average heading into April since 2009.
• About 59 percent of U.S. stations are selling gas for less than $2 per gallon today, while the most common price across the country is $1.999 per gallon.
• Average U.S. gas prices are about 36 cents per gallon cheaper than a year ago.
Americans have saved nearly $10 billion (13 percent) on gasoline so far this year compared to the same period in 2015, which is about $45 per licensed driver.
• This year’s savings are in addition to the $120 billion Americans saved over the course of 2015 compared to the previous year, which was about $565 per licensed driver.
• Current gas price savings are even more significant when compared to a few years ago. For example, the most expensive first quarter ever was in 2012, when prices averaged $3.58 per gallon. In comparison to that quarter, Americans have saved about $50 billion — or $240 per licensed driver — during the first three months this year.
Gas prices are significantly cheaper than in recent years due to relatively low oil costs and abundant petroleum supplies. WTI oil prices settled above $38 per barrel on March 30, which is about $70 per barrel lower than the summertime highs in 2014. Every $10 change in the price of crude oil can move gas prices by nearly 25 cents per gallon.
Abundant supplies have helped keep prices relatively low this year. For example, commercial crude oil supplies in the United States are about 13 percent higher than a year ago and gasoline supplies are six percent higher, according to EIA estimates.
Lower gas prices have helped motivate Americans to drive at record levels. Americans drove 3.1 trillion miles in 2015, which was an all-time record and 3.5 percent higher than in 2014, according to estimates by the U.S. DOT. The latest estimates indicate Americans drove 240.7 billion miles in January 2016, which was the most ever for the month.
The EIA estimated gasoline consumption at 395 million gallons per day in its latest four-week average, which is about five percent higher than the same period a year ago and the highest for this time of year on record. There is a strong likelihood that road travel will continue to increase this year as long as gas prices remain low and there are no major economic problems.
Gas prices are on the rise nationwide, which is a trend drivers see nearly every spring.
The national average price of gas has increased 35 out of the past 37 days for a total of 35 cents per gallon. Gas prices often increase 50 cents per gallon or more in the spring.
Most drivers are paying $4-$9 more per gallon to fill up their vehicles on every trip to the gas station today compared to mid-February.
Gas prices could rise by another 15-25 cents per gallon in many parts of the country by Memorial Day. At those levels, seasonal prices would still be less expensive than in recent years.
Gas prices are rising due to higher oil costs, increased demand, refinery maintenance and the switchover to summer-blend gasoline. Oil prices have increased by more than $10 per barrel since early February, which has made it more expensive to produce gasoline.
Demand has increased this spring as the weather has turned warmer, and this increase comes at the same time that many refineries conduct maintenance to prepare for the summer driving season. Refineries conducting maintenance produce less fuel, which can lead to higher prices.
The EPA mandates gas stations in some parts of the country sell summer-blend gasoline from June 1 to Sept. 15 for air-quality reasons. Refineries begin producing summer-blend gasoline by April 1, and this fuel costs more to produce.
Average state gas prices vary by 95 cents per gallon across the country. The five states with the cheapest average gas prices on March 31 included Missouri ($1.83), New Jersey ($1.84), Oklahoma ($1.85), South Carolina ($1.87) and Alabama ($1.87). States with cheaper prices have relatively low gas taxes and abundant fuel supplies.
The five states with the most expensive prices on March 31 included California ($2.79), Hawaii ($2.59), Nevada ($2.44), Washington ($2.29) and Alaska ($2.29). Gas prices in California and in neighboring states are among the highest in the country due to continued refinery problems that have limited regional fuel production and supplies.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive- related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.