As Americans return to travel many people are getting ready to hit the road for an epic adventure. But one drawback of a road trip is rising gas prices. While fuel costs were incredibly low during the pandemic, they're now higher than they've been in years as people are eager to indulge their wanderlust. NBC senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle found some ways for travelers to save on gas and enjoy that summer getaway without breaking the bank.
Drivers can definitely expect to see higher gas prices over the July fourth holiday weekend. According to AAA, the national average has risen to three dollars and ten cents per gallon, said Ruhle. "That's up 42 percent from last year when the pandemic was keeping many people home, and prices down," she said.
Ruhle said now that more people are driving, we're seeing the highest prices since 2014, with the biggest increases in Utah, Oregon and Indiana.
"We probably won't see sizable relief in gas prices until after summer," said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at Gasbuddy.
And that's big news as a record 43.6 million Americans are expected to hit the road for the Fourth of July weekend, meaning more traffic and more stops at the pump, said Ruhle.
But there are some ways to save. For one, be aware of changing prices from state to state.
"Watch for those state lines, that's where you tend to see prices either shoot up by 20 to 40 cents or plummet 20 to 40 cents," said De Haan.
If you are planning to hit the road, there are some more simple strategies that will help keep more cash in your wallet:
- Check for peak travel times in your area to avoid sitting in traffic.
- Crack windows while parked in the shade to minimize your A/C and gas use.
- Slow down and drive the speed limit, says AAA, as aerodynamic drag causes fuel economy to drop off significantly as speeds increase above 50 mph.
- Avoid "jackrabbit" starts and hard acceleration as they increase fuel consumption.
- Don't idle and if you're stopped for more than 60 seconds, turn off the engine.
- The GasBuddy app can be used to help people locate the cheapest gas station near them. Sometimes driving to the next gas station over can save you upwards of 30 cents per gallon.
- Use reward cards. GasBuddy also offers a free gas card that can save you up to 25 cents per gallon at most gas stations across the country and other loyalty programs like Shell Fuel Rewards or grocery store cards can be stacked for the most savings.
- Buy gas on the right day of the week. GasBuddy has done studies that have shown Monday to have the cheapest prices, and the weekends to be more expensive.
If you're worried about not being able to find fuel on your road trip, Ruhle says it's not as big a problem right now as you might think. "A tiny fraction of the nation's gas stations aren't getting their gas deliveries on time but that's because of a truck driver shortage," said Ruhle. She advises drivers to just head down the road a little further to find a station with gas.