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    Consumers Will Hit the Road If Gas Prices Stay Low

    AAA: Cost should stay below $3 a gallon this summer.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — With summer vacations right around the corner, a new AAA survey finds that a majority of consumers are more likely to take a road trip this year if gas prices remain near recent levels.

    The positive attitude spreads across generations, with 68 percent of consumers aged 18 to 34 and 57 percent of consumers aged 35 and older more likely to travel 50 miles or more from home.

    Even though filling up is costing less, only 13 percent of Americans report driving more in their daily lives due to recent lower gas prices. These results indicate that most Americans are unlikely to change their regular driving habits due to lower gas prices, according to AAA's Gas Omnibus Study.

    Interestingly, the organization also found consumers are more than twice as likely to report that current gas prices are "too high" than "cheap," despite less expensive gas prices today than in recent years. The national average price of gas was $2.58 per gallon on April 30.

    For a majority of U.S. consumers, gas prices start to be "cheap" when they are between $1.50 and $2 per gallon. Seventeen percent of the study's respondents believe gas is cheap at $2.50 per gallon; 43 percent believe it is cheap at $2 per gallon; and 58 percent believe it is cheap at $1.50 per gallon. 

    As gas prices have declined in the past few months, so has consumers' tolerance for higher prices. According to AAA: 

    • In March 2013, half of Americans thought gas was too high at $3.44 per gallon when the national average was $3.64 per gallon. 
    • In March 2014, half of Americans thought gas was too high at $3.30 per gallon when the national average was $3.49 per gallon.  
    • In April 2015, half of Americans thought gas was too high at $3 per gallon when the national average was $2.39 per gallon.

    Although gas prices are still well below the $3 mark, U.S. motorists are currently paying the highest prices of the year, according to AAA's monthly gas report for April. Specifically, average U.S. gas prices are up 55 cents per gallon since reaching a low of $2.03 per gallon in late January, making this the largest seasonal increase in gas prices since 2012.

    In addition, the national average price has increased 16 days in a row for a total of 19 cents per gallon. 

    According to AAA, gas prices this year have increased at the largest seasonal rate since 2012 when the national average increased by 66 cents per gallon during the spring. By comparison, U.S. average prices increased by 43 cents per gallon in spring 2014 and 50 cents in 2013.

    Despite recent price increases, the average price of gas in April was $2.44 per gallon, which was the lowest average for the month since 2009. By comparison, the average price of gas in April 2014 was about $1.20 per gallon more expensive at $3.64 per gallon. 

    Consumers are still expected to pay the lowest gas prices for this summer driving season in at least five years, and it is even possible gas prices will reach the lowest summertime levels in a decade if the cost of crude oil drops again, the AAA report noted.

    AAA does not expect the national average price of gas to rise above $3 per gallon this summer, but it is unclear whether consumers will pay more or less than today in the coming months.

    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, according to AAA. 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 nearly $400 less on gasoline due to lower prices so far this year, in comparison to the same period in 2014. 

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