Heading into the peak summer driving season, which kicks off on Memorial Day weekend, gasoline prices show no signs of slowing down.
The national average for unleaded gas hit a new high of $4.59 per gallon Wednesday, with all 50 states above $4 per gallon, AAA data shows. Gas prices are now $1.56 more than a year ago and $1.05 more than they were when the war in Ukraine started in February, according to AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross.
“That sent shock waves through the oil market that have kept oil costs elevated,” he said. “Domestically, meanwhile, seasonal gas demand is rising as more drivers hit the road, despite the pain they face paying at the pump.”
There’s still an appetite to travel, according to GasBuddy’s Summer Travel survey.
“We found that 58% of Americans plan to hit the road for a trip this summer, up from 57% last year, even faced with the highest gas prices ever,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.
“What we did notice is that motorists will be traveling a bit less, with 65% taking only one or two road trips,” De Haan said.
The most common amount of time traveled by car will be between two to three hours and more than five hours, GasBuddy found.
If you are planning to hit the road this weekend, there are ways to shield yourself somewhat from soaring prices at the pump. Here are consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch’s top tips:
- Fuel up midweek. Beat the crowds and save by filling up sooner rather than later. Gas costs will continue to climb throughout the week and spike on Friday, so you’re better off getting gas now ahead of the rush, Woroch said.
- Get a tuneup. From inflating tires properly to making sure the engine is running smoothly, a tuneup could be key to getting better gas mileage. Other tricks to maximize fuel economy include keeping the windows rolled up to reduce drag and setting cruise control when possible to avoid excessive braking and accelerating.
- Track gas prices. Apps such as GasBuddy, Gas Guru and AAA TripTik can track down which gas station has the cheapest price per gallon. This is especially helpful when trying to avoid those pricey gas stations right off the highway.
- Pay with cash. The price can be 10 cents to 15 cents more per gallon for credit card transactions. Pay with cash instead to get the lower price or use a gas rewards credit card to earn cash back on those charges. CNBC’s Select has a full roundup of the best cards for fueling up based on your consumer habits.
- Sign up for loyalty programs. Many major gas station chains have loyalty programs, which can help offset the price at the pump. Some grocery store chains may also offer cents-per-gallon rewards. For example, Kroger and Shop & Stop give fuel points for every $1 spent on groceries that can be redeemed at participating gas stations.
- Stay closer to home. You don’t always have to drive far to get away. Try the RoadTrippers app to plan shorter road trips that are just as worthwhile. You may be surprised at all the things to see and do within a short driving distance from home, Woroch said.