The Memorial Day holiday weekend traditionally marks the beginning of the summer driving season, and if projections are accurate, this year will see more travelers on the road than last year, along with an improved outlook for the coming summer.
And there’s one simple reason for that: gasoline prices. The national average price for a gallon of regular gas Tuesday morning was $2.355, just a 1.5 cents more than it was on January 1. According to analysts at GasBuddy, that pricing pattern has never happened before. Typically gas prices rise beginning in early April and continue rising through the Memorial Day weekend.
Some 56% of motorists surveyed by GasBuddy plan to take a round-trip of at least 500 miles this weekend, an increase of 9% compared with last year. The gasoline price-tracking firm also expects Memorial Day gas prices to average $2.39, the second-lowest price in the past decade.
Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s senior petroleum analyst, said:
It has been a remarkably quiet spring at the pump, perhaps even record-setting quiet as gasoline prices have seen minimal fluctuation during the normally explosive spring time. As a result, we are finding that more people than ever will be taking advantage by hitting the road. The incredible part is that nationwide, we’ll be spending $2.2 billion less over the long weekend versus the highest-priced Memorial Day weekend in 2011 at $3.78 per gallon.
Travelers should pay attention to the disparity in prices among gas stations in the same area or city. When prices are low — as they are now — variations generally increase, and if you fill up at the first station you see, you could end up paying nearly $0.50 a gallon more for gas this weekend. That’ll cost you $10 more on a 20-gallon fill-up.
Among other findings in GasBuddy’s survey:
- 75% of Americans plan to take a road trip this summer during non-holiday weekends.
- 22% of Americans plan to travel this weekend, with 20% planning a Fourth of July trip and 16% planning a trip on the Labor Day weekend.
- 64% of Americans say that gas prices do not figure into their plans, while 17% say they are planning travel to take advantage of the low gas prices.
- 70% of Americans plan to take more than one road trip this summer.