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Gas Prices May Rise This Summer -- What You Can Do to Save at the Pump

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author photo by Lindsay Martell May 2018

Pain at the pump is back, folks. Gas prices are expected to rise in the coming months, just in time for those highly anticipated summer road trips to the beach.

According to Associated Press, (citing data from the Oil Price Information Service), the U.S. daily national average for regular gasoline is now $2.81 per gallon. That's up from about $2.39 per gallon a year ago. And across the U.S., 13 percent of gas stations are charging $3.00 per gallon or more, AAA said last week.

Cash Woes

"This will be the most expensive driving season since 2014," said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for Oil Price Information Service.

Summer driving season is historically when demand for gas peaks -- as folks head out of town on summer vacation. So while it's not too surprising to expect a slight increase, the anticipated figure is about 6 percent more than the current average, and 17 percent more than the numbers of a year ago.

For those living in West Coast states, the pain is even worse: Drivers in California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington State, Hawaii and Alaska already pay more than $3.00 per gallon, according to AAA. California's average gas price has jumped to $3.52, compared with $2.99 a year ago.

Adding insult to injury, this is not just a summer thing. Those high numbers will likely hold true after the warm summer months are but a memory -- the EIA projects that the national retail price for gas will be about $2.76 a gallon in 2018. The Associated Press reports a number of factors have affected oil prices including an uptick of global economic growth driving up the demand, while, at the same time, production cutbacks initiated by OPEC last year have contributed to a reduction in oil supplies.

Trip Tips

So what can you do to save a few dolla dolla bills? In a nutshell, shop around, slow down and be smart about your time behind the wheel.

According to a GasBuddy.com study, we're big-time creatures of habit, and that can hurt our bank accounts. A whopping 80 percent of respondents have a gas station they regularly go to. When choosing a place to fill up, almost 38 percent of drivers say it's because the station's location is convenient.

"Drivers are getting lazier, and going to the same station because it's convenient can cost you," said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. "The station two blocks away could be 20 to 40 cents per gallon lower in price, and while that's only a few dollars' difference per fill-up, it amounts to the hundreds of dollars per year you could be saving if you shop around."

Another culprit? Running on empty. GasBuddy reports that only 19 percent of people decide to refuel when they see a station with a good price, with most (37 percent) waiting until they only have a quarter tank left of gas, while 28 percent wait until the gas light comes on. And get this -- over one-third (35 percent) of those surveyed have run out of gas. Yikes. None of this procrastination is helping you save money.

"If you're waiting until the last second to get gas, there's a big chance you're going to panic and pull into the first station you see without checking a price and risk filling up at an expensive station," said DeHaan. "Our research shows that having enough fuel in your tank to shop around for the lowest price, especially in major metro areas like Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington D.C., could save you upwards of over $60 per month."

 Saving on gas isn't just about making better decisions on where to fill up. The U.S. Department of Energy offers these tips for saving on gas as you embark on your summer journey:

Check Your Speed

The faster you drive, the more gas you use. According to information provided by the Department of Energy, gas mileage decreases rapidly after 50 miles per hour. You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.18 per gallon for gas. So slowwww down.

Be Mindful, Get Active

Do your grocery shopping and coffee grabbing in one stop as opposed to multiple stops. If possible, show your FitBit some love and park in a central spot and walk from errand to errand. You'll give your ride a break, and sneak in some extra steps.

Also, as much as it's tempting -- do not use your trunk for storage. The weightier your car, the more gas it uses. So haul that soccer equipment out STAT.

So while we can't do much to keep gas prices from skyrocketing, you can take some proactive steps to put some thrift back into your summer.

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Gas Prices May Rise This Summer -- What You Can Do to Save at the Pump - Autotrader