With an estimated 30 million drivers expected to hit the road this Memorial Day weekend, all eyes will likely be on the price at the pump.
Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, says gas prices are right on par with last year’s rates. The national average is $3.68 per gallon of regular unleaded gas compared to year’s price of $3.65 per gallon, he says.
“This year it will be a few cents more, most notably in the nation’s midsection, which is a bit more sensitive to price range,” he says. “The midsection of the nation is seeing all-time record high prices, which will result in fewer people driving.”
Prices are up in Middle America due to refinery issues, he says, while prices along the Gulf and East Coasts are relatively stable. However, drivers in the West Coast are also seeing spiking rates.
“It’s all related to refinery and supply issues,” he says. “California has had extensive refinery maintenance, which contributes to lower gasoline supply. It’s just like having your car in the shop—you can’t drive it around when it’s in the shop.”
Drivers in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia are catching the biggest breaks with the cheapest gas prices in the country right now.
For drivers looking to save when fueling up this weekend, DeHaan has these tips:
No. 1: Shop around and plan ahead. Sometimes crossing state lines can pay off when filling up your tank, DeHaan says. “I love the example of Illinois and Missouri,” he says. “Taxes in Illinois are 65 cents a gallon, versus 36 cents a gallon in Missouri. California and Arizona are in the same boat. Knowing where to fill up is the easiest way to save money.”
No. 2: Watch your speed. DeHaan suggests using cruise control and not rushing or driving over the speed limit to increase your miles per gallon.
“Sometimes even five-miles-per-hour under the speed limit helps,” he says. “Also driving more conservatively can save you gas.”
No. 3: Limit Idling and AC use. These two actions can waste. “Around Memorial Day weekend, people are more apt to sit in their car and idle,” he says. “They are more relaxed—try to avoid these situations, and also use the air conditioning in the car sparingly.”