Think about this when you fill your tanks this weekend.
Heading into the July 4 holiday, gasoline prices are hovering at $3.09 a gallon on average nationally, the highest price over the holiday in seven years when prices reached $3.66 a gallon, according to data from AAA.
Separate data from GasBuddy indicates that the national average is hovering even higher at $3.11 a gallon.
However, gas prices in the Pacific Northwest have soared by up to 11 cents per gallon over the last seven days due to the heatwave there, reaching $3.62 in Oregon, according to AAA.
Some 89% of U.S. gas stations were charging $2.75 per gallon or more for regular unleaded gas as of Monday, according to AAA. “That is a stark increase over last July 4 when only a quarter of stations were selling gas for more than $2.25,” said Jeanette McGee, AAA spokesperson.
Most of the 43.6 million Americans who are set to hit the road this weekend are fully aware of the record gas prices and are “likely to look for more free activities or eat out less, but still take their vacations as planned,” McGee said.
“Crude oil, and in turn gas prices, are more expensive compared to years past mostly due to three major factors: confidence in worldwide vaccination rollout, global oil demand spikes, and the easing of travel restrictions leading to optimism for leisure travel,” AAA said.
Another consideration: gas stations are rushing to stock up to ensure they have enough gas to meet the high demand.
“The problem isn’t gasoline supply. The problem is there aren’t enough truck drivers to keep up with deliveries, made worse by the pandemic as some truckers left for jobs elsewhere or were let go,” according to GasBuddy.
But the site advised travelers not to panic. “We are seeing delays in gasoline being delivered at a very few stations, but there isn’t much rhyme or reason to the locations. If you see a station with bagged pumps, it’s likely they’ll have gas in a few hours again, just try the next station,” it added.
Still, Tom Kloza, the global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service, told CNN that he was concerned. “It used to be an afterthought for station owners to schedule truck deliveries. Now it’s job No. 1,” he said.
“What I’m worried about for July is the increased demand works out to about 2,500 to 3,000 more deliveries needed every day,” he added. “There just aren’t the drivers to do that.”
‘As we approach July 4, it appears the only way forward is for gas prices to continue to rise as Americans’ insatiable demand for gasoline continues to act as a catalyst.’
— Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy
The cost of rental cars won’t help offset vacationers’ costs this weekend.
Rental cars, used cars and airfare saw the highest jump in prices last month compared to April, costing 12.1%, 7.3% and 7% more, respectively.
Daily car rental rates this Independence Day are 86% higher compared to the same period last year, topping out at $166, according to AAA.
The rise in rates is being driven by the global chip shortage — making it more expensive for rental-car companies such as Hertz
to purchase more vehicles to meet growing demand.
Ten million more Americans are set to take road trips this July 4, a 34% increase, compared to last year, according to AAA.
Overall, 47.7 million total expected number of American travelers across all modes of transportation is trailing below 2019 when some 49 million Americans, a record-high, traveled over the holiday.
“With oil’s continued push higher, fueled by continued strong demand globally and production only slowly [increasing], gasoline prices have had no choice but following oil’s rise last week setting a new 2021 high,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, wrote on the company blog.
“As we approach July 4, it appears the only way forward is for gas prices to continue to rise as Americans’ insatiable demand for gasoline continues to act as a catalyst,” he added.
What’s more, he sees prices rising beyond July 4. “With hurricane season soon coming into its prime, we have plenty more catalysts for a rise in price, and few that could restrain the situation,” he said. “Motorists should prepare to dig deeper for the second half of the summer, unfortunately.”