JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Motorists headed to the pump are finding the highest gas prices of 2015. The national average price for regular unleaded is $2.62 per gallon, up 59 cents since this year's low of $2.03 in late January.
"Rising crude oil has pushed gas prices to their highest levels of the year ," said Josh Carrasco, spokesperson, AAA - The Auto Club Group. "Although prices are at their highest level of the year, they are still more than a dollar cheaper than this time last year."
At $2.60, the national average had the cheapest start to the month of May since 2009. That year, the national average was $2.05. Last year, the average price was $3.69 on May 1. The average price for the entire month of May 2014 was $3.66. The monthly average for April 2015 was $2.44. The national average price so far this year is $2.31, a discount of $1.12 for a gallon of regular unleaded.
Despite recent price increases, drivers should still pay the lowest gas prices for the summer driving season in at least five years, and it is even possible that gas prices will reach the lowest summertime levels in a decade if the cost of crude oil drops again. AAA does not expect the national average price of gas to rise above $3 per gallon this summer.
Motorists could soon see a decline at the pump, due to a glut of petroleum in the country. Domestic oil production remains about 14 percent higher than a year ago, U.S. commercial crude oil supplies are about 23 percent higher than last year, while gasoline supplies are about eight percent more abundant. Gasoline supplies could grow even larger heading into the summer as refineries complete seasonal maintenance.
"We could see record summer travel this year due in large part to cheap gas prices," said Carrasco. "Gas savings will make travel more affordable and may motivate more motorists to take a summer road trip."
In a typical year, gas prices peak by early May as refineries end seasonal maintenance and increase production for the busy summer driving season.
Gas prices often drop through late June before rising again as millions of Americans hit the road for peak summer travel in July and August. The summer driving season is traditionally from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Last summer during this period, gas prices averaged $3.58 per gallon. AAA estimates that U.S. households have spent about $400 less on gasoline due to lower prices so far this year.