Gas Prices Highest in 8 Years, But Americans Plan to Travel More This Summer

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of the American summer driving season as millions of Americans take advantage of warm weather and a three-day weekend to barbecue, bask on the beach, or just take a road trip with friends and family.

And while gasoline prices have been on the rise for much of the year, Memorial Day weekend car travel will be a little more affordable as gasoline prices dip from the same time last year. However, there’s no guarantee lower gas prices will endure for the entire Memorial Day to Labor Day driving season.

This year, more Americans are planning summertime road trips, according to an annual report by GasBuddy, the Boston-based tracker of real-time national gasoline prices. The survey of 1,680 GasBuddy members suggests that nearly 75% of Americans will take a road trip this summer, a 16 percent increase from last year.

“The largest seasonal surge in gas prices since 2011 isn’t slowing down travel plans this summer as more Americans are hitting the road than staying home, according to GasBuddy’s 2019 Summer Travel survey.

Indeed, the price at the pump had been increasing in recent months as refiners began building stockpiles for the summer driving season.

But in recent weeks, gas prices have declined since hitting the second-largest seasonal rise ever on May 4. This decline may not last through the summer, but GasBuddy estimates a 14-cent price reduction on a gallon of gasoline for Memorial Dyy weekend compared to the same weekend last year.

One reason for the gentle decline from higher gas prices earlier this year is that crude oil prices have remained fairly stable in recent months and remains below prices from the same period last year. West Texas Intermediate crude oil was trading at around $63 per barrel on Tuesday, down from $72 per barrel at the same time last year.

“[This] is one reason helping gas prices be cheaper than last year at this time,” Jeanette Casselano, spokesperson for the American Automobile Association, said in a May 20 press statement. “Today, motorists can find gas for $2.75 or less at nearly half of all gas stations in the country.”

The price of gasoline varies based largely on local taxes, retail markups, and transportation costs. According to data released in January by the American Petroleum Institute, Alaska had the lowest state gasoline tax.

But it also had the the fourth-highest price per gallon among the 50 states because of Alaska’s location and dearth of state refining capacity. Pennsylvania has the highest state gasoline tax but ranks 15th in the highest price at the pump because of the state’s proximity to refineries in the Northeast. Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, and Virginia are among the states with the lowest retail gasoline prices.

As people plan their summer road trips, it’s worth noting that road safety can be as variable as fuel prices. Some roads are more dangerous than others.

Obviously densely populated cities are where most road accidents happen, but fatal cart crashes tend to occur in more sparsely populated areas where people tend to drive at higher speeds and emergency responders can take longer to arrive. Accidents in population centers might be less fatal, but driving through them during long road can mean stuck in maddening, time-sucking traffic congestion. Take a look at the worst cities to drive in every state.