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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As March ended, gas prices hit their highest daily average since Sept. 11, 2013. However, most drivers paid the lowest gas prices for the month in four years.
According to the AAA Monthly Gas Price Report, the average price of gas on Monday, March 31, was $3.55 per gallon, about 5 cents above the monthly average of $3.507 per gallon -- even with seasonal price increases.
"Spring is the most frustrating time of year for drivers given that gas prices seem to jump every time you get in the car," said Avery Ash, AAA spokesman. "We are seeing the same seasonal hikes this spring, but fortunately gas is not nearly as expensive as in recent years."
The recent $3.507-per-gallon average marked the least expensive monthly average for March since 2010. March prices averaged $3.695 per gallon in 2013, $3.829 per gallon in 2012, $3.533 per gallon in 2011 and $2.778 per gallon in 2010.
Despite hitting a four-year low, the monthly price per gallon was 17 cents per gallon higher than the monthly average in February, the report noted.
Looking back over the past few weeks, the price at the pump ticked up 49 out of 52 days for a total of 29 cents per gallon. AAA cited seasonal factors, such as refinery maintenance, the switchover to summer-blend gasoline and rising demand, for the rise in prices.
Gas prices are expected to hit their springtime peak in April, with the national average forecasted to be $3.55 to $3.75 per gallon. However, the recent slowdown in price increases suggests that the average may not even surpass $3.65 per gallon, according to AAA.
On a positive note, AAA expects the national average will remain less expensive than last year's peak of $3.79 per gallon.
"Peak gas prices for the spring are likely in sight, but there is a good chance that it will cost a little more at the pumps over the next few weeks," Ash said. "People are likely to drive more as the weather warms, and refinery production will need to keep pace with demand."
Several factors could push gas prices higher in the near term: a decrease in gas supplies due to refinery maintenance, the switchover to summer-blend gasoline and an increase in demand. Gas prices have increased in April three out of the previous five years, at an average of 3 cents per gallon.
Taking a closer look at gas prices by state, AAA found that drivers in every state, except Ohio and Pennsylvania, are paying higher gas prices than a month ago. The largest price increases over the previous month include Oregon (25 cents), Washington (24 cents), Florida (21 cents), Kentucky (19 cents) and California (15 cents).
The five states with the highest average prices today include Hawaii ($4.24), California ($4.00), Alaska ($3.82), New York ($3.77) and Connecticut ($3.77). The five states with the lowest average prices include: Montana ($3.28), South Carolina ($3.28), Louisiana ($3.31), Mississippi ($3.32) and Arkansas ($3.34).