Fourth of July weekend: 48 million people expected to travel despite high gas prices

·3 min read

Despite record high gas prices, Americans are ready to hit the road for the Fourth of July.

According to the Automobile Association of America (AAA), an estimated 47.9 million people will travel 50 miles or more this weekend, mostly by car travel.

Robert Sinclair, AAA northeast senior manager of public affairs, explained that driving has always been the most popular transportation method for travelers.

"It gives you the freedom to leave when you want," Sinclair said on Yahoo Finance Live. "You will have transportation at your destination. You can return when you want. When the pandemic hit, all the health authorities were saying driving was the safest way to isolate yourself from other people to take a trip. And it looks like the trend is continuing and growing."

High gas prices are not deterring Americans from taking the driver’s seat. According to Sinclair, this year has the highest number of drivers since AAA began tracking the data. Meanwhile, the national average for gas prices hovers just under $5 a gallon, according to AAA data.

"It looks like these high gasoline prices are going to be a long-term thing," Sinclair said. "And by high, I mean more than $4.00 a gallon with Mr. Putin continuing his military expansion and the sanctions from the European and Western nations as far as Russian crude oil is concerned."

The Russia-Ukraine War is a major factor in high gas prices. Russia produces roughly 10 million barrels of crude oil a day, and global consumption is roughly 100 million barrels per day, meaning the country accounts for 10% of the entire market.

Motorists drive in traffic on Interstate 395 on June 30, 2022 in Washington, DC ahead of Fourth of July holiday weekend. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Motorists drive in traffic on Interstate 395 on June 30, 2022 in Washington, DC ahead of Fourth of July holiday weekend. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

While the Baker Hughes Rig Count — which tracks the number of active drilling rigs in the United States — has soared by nearly 60% from last June, Sinclair explains that supply cannot meet the pace of demand. The price of crude oil (CL=F) is up more than 43% year-to-date (YTD).

"We can't pull oil out of the ground fast enough to deal with all the extra demand we're seeing," Sinclair said.

Driver tips

In the meantime, Sinclair shared several tips for saving money at the pump.

"Gasoline is always more expensive at gasoline stations on or along highways, in affluent neighborhoods,” he said. "Avoid those areas when you're looking for gasoline. And the big box store and the no-name brands tend to have the cheapest prices."

Driving style and vehicle maintenance are also important to keep in mind, he added.

"Thirty percent of an engine's energy is used to overcome the rolling resistance of the tires," Sinclair said. "So you have to make sure they're properly inflated. For every pound per square inch that you're underinflated, you lose 1% of your fuel economy, and that's per tire. So make sure all the tires are pumped up properly."

Also, he noted, drivers should avoid any extra weight in their vehicles, as it leads to poorer fuel economy, and watch their speed and driving style.

"For every five miles per hour you drive over 50 miles per hour on the highway, it's like adding $0.25 or $0.30 to the price of a gallon of gasoline," Sinclair said. "The engine has to work harder to overcome the increased wind resistance at higher speeds."

On top of that, he added "Make your driving style more gentle. When you step on that gas when you're at a stoplight, you're using a lot of energy to get that vehicle that wants to resist moving along. And that uses a lot more energy."

Yaseen Shah is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @yaseennshah22

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