WASHINGTON (August 22, 2019) – When filling-up at the pump this fall, the majority of U.S. motorists will find savings of potentially more than 25-cents/gallon compared to this summer. The national gas price average, which is already 15-cents cheaper than just five weeks ago, is poised to continue pushing less expensive due to several factors, including less expensive crude oil prices, the drop-off in gasoline demand after Labor Day and the move to winter-blend gasoline. AAA forecasts the national average to drop to $2.40 or lower this fall and offers motorists easy tips to maintain fuel efficiency throughout the year.
“AAA predicts that fall gasoline prices will be significantly less expensive than this summer with motorists finding savings in every market across the country,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. “Many factors are driving this decrease, but the low price of crude oil is chief among them.”
AAA forecasts crude prices to range between $50 and $60 per barrel this fall. That is a considerable drop from last fall when prices ranged between $60 and $75. Why so cheap? Current total domestic crude inventories sit at 438.9 million bbl, which is 31.5 million bbl higher than last year at this time. The continued glut of oil encouraged the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its partners to extend their 1.2 million b/d production reduction agreement through the end of the year. However, so far, reduced supply from OPEC and its partners has not led to a sustained higher price for crude.
As always, hurricane season has the potential to cause declining gas prices to shoot back up. This month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that 2019’s Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be above normal, with 10 to 17 named storms, including five to nine hurricanes. The mere threat of a hurricane making landfall can shutter domestic crude production, leading to spikes in crude and gasoline prices. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey caused the national gas price average to jump 30-cents in a matter of days.
Fall Regional Outlooks
- West Coast: This region is consistently home to the most expensive markets in the country, even though the crude refinery utilization rate in the region has grown to nearly 97 percent this summer. Growing stocks have helped to push prices lower across the region. Gas is $3.01 or more in all seven states in the region except Arizona. As fall brings lower demand for gasoline, AAA expects the West Coast to see gas prices drop, in light of higher stock levels, during the months ahead.
- Great Lakes and Central States: Gasoline stocks and regional refinery utilization have seen mostly weekly increases, with the exception of a few, throughout the summer. Moving into the fall, refinery utilization will likely slow as demand hits a post-summer slump and refineries make the switch to winter-blend gasoline production and undergo planned maintenance. Prices should push cheaper, but that won’t stop the typically volatile region from being susceptible to sudden price shocks
- Mid-Atlantic and Northeast: Total gas stocks in the region sit at 61 million bbl, which is 3 million bbl less than last year this time. Part of the year-over-year deficit stems from the pending closure of Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES), the largest refinery on the East Coast. This would usually lead to a spike in gas prices. However, gasoline imports are easing supply concerns and keeping retail gasoline prices moving lower. Though any further supply disruptions could cause prices in the region to spike temporarily.
- South and Southeast: This summer, the region has averaged a gasoline stock level of nearly 84 million bbl, with healthy regional refinery utilization rates, which have helped keep gas prices low. Motorists in the South and Southeast can expect to find savings at the pump this fall, potentially even under $2/gallon by year-end, barring any major hurricanes.
- Rockies: Typically gas prices skew their highest for the Rockies region during summer tourism season. That was no different this year. However, prices were significantly cheaper than summer 2018 – Utah and Idaho’s averages priced under $3/gallon for all of July, compared to a high of $3.22 in 2018. As the tourist season winds down and demand slows, gas prices may see some fluctuation, but overall, motorists can expect prices to remain steady as gasoline stocks sit at their highest level – 7.5 million bbl – recorded by the EIA for the month of August.
Boost your Vehicle’s Fuel Efficiency
In addition to cheaper gas prices, there are other ways to save at the pump and boost your vehicle’s fuel efficiency this fall.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Americans drive an average 11,498 miles per year, and annual per-vehicle gasoline use totals approximately 462 gallons. Poorly maintained vehicles are less efficient and use more fuel. To maintain fuel efficiency for your car, AAA recommends checking the owner’s manual for the recommended maintenance schedule, and keep the following in mind:
- Perform required maintenance as specified. Keeping tires properly inflated, moving components adequately lubricated, and ignition and emission systems in good operating condition will help ensure maximum fuel efficiency and extend the life of your vehicle.
- Change engine oil at the intervals indicated by the in-car maintenance reminder system or factory schedule. Use an “energy-conserving” oil that meets the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications.
- Keep tires inflated at the proper pressure. Use the figures on the tire information decal on the driver’s door jamb — not the one molded into the tire’s sidewall. Under-inflated tires reduce fuel economy and can be a safety hazard.
- Check the engine air filter at every oil change. A dirty filter won’t affect fuel economy on a modern fuel-injected car, but it will reduce engine performance.
- Engine spark plugs must be in good condition. Some types last for 100,000 miles, but others need to be replaced more often.
Motorists can find current gas prices along their route with the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad, and Android. The app can also be used to map a route, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.