CHARLOTTE — While gasoline prices have climbed 36 cents a gallon since Christmas, they are still 5.6 cents a gallon less on average in North Carolina than they were last Easter.
Typically a family stay-at-home holiday, Easter gas prices always serve as precursor to higher prices due to the May 1 national deadline for refineries to start producing less-polluting summer-blend fuel. This transition pressures prices upward because supply becomes crimped.
North Carolina prices have been climbing since hitting a low of $3.28 on Feb. 8. Asheville is paying the highest average price at $3.647 a gallon and High Point the lowest at $3.486 a gallon.
Statewide the average is $3.59 a gallon compared to $3.646 last year at Easter.
Prices are expected to continue to inch upwards over the next few weeks but should remain slightly lower this year overall. Currently, North Carolina's average gas price is the 25th most expensive in the nation and Georgia is 24th; South Carolina's is 4th lowest nationally and Virginia 7th.
“Gasoline prices will continue to be a major factor this summer for travelers and commuters,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “Unrest in the Middle East and overseas could adversely affect prices but as we continue to develop our own resources, the potential international impact lessens.”
The Wilmington area has the second highest-priced gasoline in North Carolina at $3.616; Winston-Salem the second cheapest at $3.529.
According to AAA Travel — the largest leisure travel agency in the Carolinas — popular spring destinations include North and South Carolina beaches (Outer Banks, Charleston area, Myrtle Beach), Orlando, European guided vacations and Caribbean cruises.
Motorists looking for ways to conserve gasoline while traveling should keep the following tips in mind:
- Monitor driving behavior, follow the speed limit and avoid accelerating or decelerating quickly. For every five miles per hour over 65 mph, gasoline efficiency decreases 10 percent.
- Make sure tires are properly inflated to maximize fuel economy. See your owner's manual for the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle.
- Keep vehicles properly maintained, including scheduled oil changes and air filter replacements.
- Avoid excess weight in your vehicle. When vacationing, try to avoid strapping luggage on the roof where it causes drag and reduces fuel economy.
- Whenever possible, consolidate trips.
To estimate fuel costs, travelers can go to www.fuelcostcalculator.com to input starting city, destination, and the make and model of their car.
The free AAA Mobile app for iPhone and Android devices uses GPS navigation to help travelers map a route, find updated gas prices, view nearby member discounts and access AAA roadside assistance.