As Americans ring in the new year, they may find themselves with some extra cash thanks to savings at the pump.
Gas prices have been steadily falling since October and continue to drop.
On Christmas Eve, the national average was $2.322 per gallon, setting a low for 2018, according to AAA. In North Carolina, the average was $2.204 per gallon — more than $0.12 cheaper than this time last year, AAA reports.
The Charlotte area has among the cheapest gas prices in the state, where many last-minute shoppers will fill up their tanks for less than $2 per gallon. It’s more expensive in Asheville and the Triangle area, where average prices still top $2.35 per gallon, according to AAA.
The savings also may contribute to more holiday traffic, as travelers opt to pack up the car and drive to visit family or winter vacation spots.
“Motorists are getting a gift this holiday in the form of relief at the pump,” Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokesperson, said in a news release. “This may be a factor in the boost of travelers choosing to drive this year.”
AAA forecasts that one in three Americans will travel during this holiday season — a 4.4 percent increase from last year and perhaps the most ever. In the Carolinas alone, 4.7 million people are expected to travel, and more than 90 percent will choose to drive.
This year, the national average gas price peaked at $2.97 per gallon over Memorial Day weekend. The cold weather dip can be credited to a global surplus of crude oil. The Energy Information Administration reported last month that domestic oil production is at an all-time high.
Dan McTeague, senior petroleum analyst at Gas Buddy, said that the trend will accelerate in the coming weeks as oil prices keep falling.
“We’re at prices that we haven’t seen for oil in a year-and-a-half and that’s likely to lead to substantial decreases,” he said. “So if you don’t like the $2.07 a gallon that you’re paying now, this time next week, we’ll definitely be below the $2 a gallon mark. The longer you wait, the better the savings at the pumps.”
At the Exxon gas station on the corner of Providence Road and Old Providence Road in Charlotte, Trey Kennedy filled up his tank for $1.999. He traveled about 30 miles to visit family in Charlotte for the holiday.
“These seem more like Rock Hill prices,” Kennedy said.
However, gas prices are expected to rise again soon. Earlier this month, OPEC and Russia agreed to cut back crude oil production starting in 2019, which could drive up gas prices.