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(AP)

AAA: Gas Prices Start 2016 at 12-Year Low

By Auto FOXBusiness

The beginning of 2016 was a good one for drivers. Americans enjoyed the cheapest quarterly gas prices in 12 years, saving billions of dollars in the process.

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Gas prices across the U.S. averaged $1.86 a gallon during the first quarter, AAA said Thursday. It was the cheapest three-month period for gas prices since the start of 2004, and AAA believes Americans will continue to pay relatively low prices this year.

The current national average of $2.06—down 36 cents year-over-year—is the lowest mark heading into April in seven years. Approximately 59% of gas stations are selling gasoline for less than $2 a gallon. Compared to the first quarter of 2015, drivers have already pocketed nearly $10 billion in gas savings this year.

With gas prices pulled down by a slumping oil market, Americans have hit the road in record numbers. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimated that drivers logged 3.1 trillion miles in 2015, an all-time record. In January, Americans drove roughly 240.7 billion miles, a new all-time high for the month.

Lately, prices at the pump have climbed steadily. The national average has edged higher 35 out of the last 37 days for a total increase of 35 cents a gallon. However, spring price gains are not uncommon thanks to higher demand and the switchover to summer-blend gasoline. AAA said gas prices often jump 50 cents or more during the spring.

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Between April 1 and Memorial Day this year, gas prices could rise another 15 to 25 cents a gallon in many parts of the country. If that holds true, seasonal prices would still remain below levels seen in recent years.

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The cheapest state for gas is Missouri, where stations are posting prices of $1.83 a gallon on average. New Jersey is a close second at $1.84, followed by Oklahoma (1.85), South Carolina ($1.87) and Alabama ($1.87).

California, known for its high gas taxes, is the most expensive state with an average selling price of $2.79. Gas in Hawaii costs $2.59 a gallon.

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