AAA Monthly Gas Price Report: March 2014 Trends and April Outlook

Michael Green

(WASHINGTON, March 31, 2014)

Lowest Gas Prices for March in Four Years Despite Seasonal Price Hikes

  • Today’s national average price of gas is $3.555 per gallon, which is the highest daily average since September 11, 2013. Despite recent increases, the monthly average of $3.507 per gallon was the least expensive for March since 2010.
  • “Spring is the most frustrating time of year for drivers given that gas prices seem to jump every time you get in the car,” said Avery Ash, AAA spokesman. “We are seeing the same seasonal hikes this spring, but fortunately gas is not nearly as expensive as in recent years.”
  • Gas prices averaged $3.507 per gallon in March, which was 17 cents per gallon higher than the monthly average in February. Despite the increase, this was the least expensive monthly average for March since 2010. March prices averaged $3.695 per gallon in 2013, $3.829 per gallon in 2012, $3.533 per gallon in 2011 and $2.778 per gallon in 2010.
  • Average gas prices have increased 49 out of 52 days for a total of 29 cents per gallon. Prices are up primarily due to seasonal factors such as refinery maintenance, the switchover to summer-blend gasoline and rising demand. The rate of increase has slowed with the national average price of gas up only three cents per gallon total during the previous two weeks.
  • The national average has remained less expensive than a year ago for 73 consecutive days. Gas prices so far this year have averaged $3.38 per gallon, which is 17 cents per gallon cheaper than in 2013 and 20 cents per gallon less than in 2012 through the same period. Gas prices are less expensive than in recent years primarily because many refineries have increased capacity to take advantage of North American crude oil production. Also, gasoline demand was relatively weak during much of the winter due to strong storms and colder than normal temperatures.
  • The price of domestic West Texas Intermediate crude oil has remained around $100 per barrel for much of the month, which is roughly $10 per barrel higher than a year ago despite lower gas prices. The most recent settlement price for WTI crude was $101.67 per barrel.

 

AAA Expects a Springtime Peak for Gas Prices to Arrive in April

  • AAA has forecast the national average price of gas will peak in April at $3.55-$3.75 per gallon, yet the recent slowdown in price increases suggests the average may not even surpass $3.65 per gallon. AAA expects that the national average will remain less expensive than last year’s peak of $3.79 per gallon.
  • “Peak gas prices for the spring are likely in sight, but there is a good chance that it will cost a little more at the pumps over the next few weeks,” continued Ash. “People are likely to drive more as the weather warms, and refinery production will need to keep pace with demand.”
  • Various factors could push gas prices higher in the near term. Gasoline supplies have shrunk recently due to continued refinery maintenance, the switchover to summer-blend gasoline and an increase in demand. AAA expects that demand will continue to increase as the weather grows warmer and driving increases.
  • Despite an increase in demand, most refineries will have completed maintenance by the end of April, which should allow gasoline supplies to build in advance of the summer driving season. Unexpected developments, such as major refinery problems or geopolitical concerns could result in higher than predicted prices.
  • Gas prices have increased in April three out of the previous five years for an average of three cents per gallon.
  • In 2013, the national average increased 49 cents per gallon over a 41-day period before peaking at $3.79 per gallon on February 27. In 2012, the national average increased 56 cents per gallon over a 70-day period before peaking at $3.94 per gallon on April 5. In 2011, national average increased 89 cents per gallon during a 94-day period before peaking at $3.98 per gallon on May 5.

Drivers in 48 States Paying Higher Gas Prices than a Month Ago

  • Drivers in every state, except Ohio and Pennsylvania, are paying higher gas prices than a month ago. The largest price increases during the previous month include: Oregon (25 cents), Washington (24 cents), Florida (21 cents), Kentucky (19 cents) and California (15 cents).
  • The five states with the highest average prices today include: Hawaii ($4.24), California ($4.00), Alaska ($3.82), New York ($3.77) and Connecticut ($3.77). The five states with the lowest average prices include: Montana ($3.28), South Carolina ($3.28), Louisiana ($3.31), Mississippi ($3.32) and Arkansas ($3.34).
  • The most expensive metro area in the continental U.S. is San Luis Obispo-Atascadero-Paso Robles, Calif. at $4.12 per gallon. The least expensive metro area is Great Falls, Mont. at $3.18 per gallon.
  • Today’s national average is about eight cents per gallon cheaper than a year ago, which is a significant difference from late February when the national average was about 39 cents per gallon cheaper than the same day in 2013. The gap has narrowed because prices continue to rise, while the national average a year ago had already fallen 15 cents per gallon from its peak high.

AAA updates fuel price averages daily at www.FuelGaugeReport.AAA.com. Every day up to 120,000 stations are surveyed based on credit card swipes and direct feeds in cooperation with the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) and Wright Express for unmatched statistical reliability. All average retail prices in this report are for a gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline. For more information, contact Michael Green at 202-942-2082, trjohnson@national.aaa.com.

 

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