By David Thomas on May 22, 2013
Generally, gas prices spike leading into Memorial Day weekend, which signifies the start of summer road-trip season. This year, refinery issues in the Midwest are putting a bigger hurt on Minnesota and surrounding states than the rest of the country.
The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $3.65. On average, Minnesota drivers are paying $4.27 for a gallon, which is nearly 17% more than the national average, according to AAA. A year ago, Minnesota's average gas price was nearly 3% less than the national average. In the past month alone, Minnesota's average gas price has increased more than 24%.
They're not alone. Here's a chart of the biggest price spikes over the past week and month.
The East Coast, the South and Texas are seeing minimal price fluctuations at the pump. New York and Florida, for example, have seen prices drop slightly over the past month.
What will the impact be on summer travel?
Hard-hit states still might not see a drastic drop in people willing to travel by car.
A round trip from Minneapolis to Chicago, for example, is roughly 800 miles. If you drive a fuel-efficient sedan like a 2013 Honda Accord at 36 mpg highway, this trip will cost $94.88 at Minnesota's current average price of regular unleaded gas. That's $15.33 higher than last year. Most families should be able to budget an extra $15 for a summer vacation.
If the car is full of cargo and the summer sun is beating down on it, expect mileage to be closer to the combined city/highway fuel-economy rating; for the Accord, that's 30 mpg. Using Minnesota's current average gas price, the trip would cost $113.88, which is a manageable increase of $18.40 over last year.
But families in larger vehicles such as a 2013 Chrysler Town & Country minivan with its 20 mpg combined rating would see costs for the same trip increase $27.60 compared to taking the trip last year.
Longer trips could be curtailed this summer, but even when we see gas-price spikes such as these, savvy travelers should be able to absorb the hit to the wallet by both packing light to save weight and packing extra food from home to save on fast-food costs on the road.
Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David