The price spike comes just weeks before Memorial Day, the traditional beginning of the summer driving season.
“I think this will probably have a lot of families rethinking their summer travel plans if they had intended to go by car,” Mai said.
For holiday travelers, the price jump may be more of a psychological factor than a strictly financial one, he said.
“It seems like a lot, and it is a lot, but when it's all said and done, it adds probably $10 to $15 to your overall gas costs on your summer auto trip,” he said. “Is $10 or $15 going to keep you home when the kids have been looking forward to a week at the Grand Canyon or in St. Louis? In some cases, that might be the straw that breaks the camel's back, but in most cases, I think families will accommodate for the increase in other ways.”
Because the price jump is not even nationwide, consumers should look at what prices are like where they are headed, Mai said. Texas gasoline prices typically are higher than in Oklahoma, but that is not the case now.
It's unclear where prices will trend in the future.
GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan said the cost likely will continue to increase, at least in the short term.
“We could see another 10- to 20-cent increase in these states over the next four days,” he said.
Longer term, it's harder to see the future, Mai said.
Crude oil still represents nearly two-thirds of the cost of gasoline.
“What drives crude are primarily psychological factors,” Mai said. “Sometimes it's based on supply and demand, but more often than not, it's because Israel and Syria are mixing it up. It's a moving target.
“I've been following gas prices for 26 years. One thing I've learned is that I haven't learned anything. The rule book is being rewritten daily. Who knows what tomorrow might bring?”
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