How fuel efficient is your vehicle? Check out these vehicles that get over 26 MPG! The good news for motorists is that gasoline prices are expected to be more affordable in the coming months than they were during the two preceding summers. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) just released Short Term Energy Outlook, retail gas prices are expected to average $3.63 a gallon during this summer’s driving season. This figure is slightly below the $3.69 figure recorded last year and $3.71 in summer of 2011, and is only slightly higher than the national average of $3.61 a gallon as of April 8.
This sunny forecast is largely based on an expected decline in crude oil prices combined with higher gasoline inventory levels and a continuing drop in demand due to increased small-car sales and other factors. The EIA predicts the price of Brent crude oil (a benchmark that’s tied to wholesale gasoline costs in the U.S.), will average $107.50 per barrel this summer, which would be around $1.50 less than it was during the same period in 2012.
Of course, gasoline prices continue to vary by region, and at that they’ll still tend to cost the most in larger cities where costlier summer-blend fuel is mandated for environmental reasons. Chicago is suffering the highest prices in the nation at an average $4.05 a gallon, and that’s still for winter-blend fuel. Those living on the West Coast will likely see the highest gas prices during the upcoming vacation season with the EIA predicting an average of $3.89 a gallon, while residents of the Gulf Coast will enjoy the lowest fuel costs at an average of $3.47 a gallon.
But will less-volatile gas prices give consumers the itch to jump back into big cars and trucks with the same vigor as they did back in the early 2000s? Not likely. Consumers, perhaps numbed by the rollercoaster behavior of fuel prices over the past five or six years, don’t seem to be particularly reactive to even relatively major swings these days. According to a study conducted by the research company Experian Automotive, a one-dollar variation in gasoline prices can be expected to account for just a 0.7 difference in small car sales at the one end of the new-vehicle spectrum and a 0.5 percent difference in full-size pickup truck sales at the other.