According to GasBuddy.com, the national price for gasoline this Thanksgiving will average $3.27 gal, a whopping 16cts gal less than last Thanksgiving, and 5cts gal cheaper than 2011.
Black Friday consumers have about $1.93-billion more to spend on items other than fuel this November thanks to savings seen so far this month. The savings versus 2011 is an equally compelling $1.5-billion, but November fuel costs project to about $2-billion more than in the same month of 2010.
Some states are seeing much greater savings than others. Residents of Utah can give thanks to average fuel prices that are 50cts gal below Thanksgiving 2012 and Rocky Mountain states all find deals some 10 percent or more below last year.
The East and Gulf Coasts, meanwhile, see fuel costs quite similar to last year. For example, recent refinery problems and a strong export flow have pushed Florida gasoline some 7cts gal above prices seen last Thanksgiving.
Smart shoppers using the GasBuddy app are seeing even bigger savings this season. The typical difference between the highest and lowest priced stations by zip code comes to a massive 20cts gal. Last year, the gap was only 16cts gal and back in 2010, the GasBuddy savings averaged just 12cts gal. In some areas, the GasBuddy app can save drivers as much as 30-40cts gal.
All of this additional money saved makes getting the family to Grandma’s house easier this year. The average minivan driver can go an extra 29 miles on $100 worth of gas, compared to 2012. Meanwhile, the more typical auto driver can go even farther with that $100; they’ll get an additional 34 miles closer to friends and family.
For those who think flying is the better bet for getting home, think again. Booking a last minute roundtrip flight from New York to Boston on Thanksgiving this year can cost up to $350. The same trip on the road costs the average motorist just $70 roundtrip if unleaded regular gas is used, saving the family $280, or about the cost of a digital tablet as a Christmas gift.
Driving relieves not only the wallet but the hassle of busy airports during the holidays. Chicago’s O’Hare airport is one of the busiest airports in the country this time of year. For those looking to visit family 300 miles away in St. Louis, Missouri, it’s going to be worth it to take that 4.5 hour drive instead of dealing with the crowds at O’Hare. The average total roundtrip flight costs for a family of four out of Chicago comes to about $840; the gasoline cost for such a trip averages about $98 for the same family traveling by minivan, a savings of over $740!
All in all, although the gas prices are currently trending a slow upward tick, drivers across the country are seeing much more money in their pockets this year over last, leaving it to be spent on the hot ticket gift items during Black Friday, through the holiday season. The heat map attached illustrates these savings, showing the average difference in price over last year.
Postscript: A major factor in cheaper fuel prices this year is the ongoing U.S. oil production boom. U.S. companies are producing 1.25-million barrels per day more crude than on Thanksgiving Day 2012; and output is up over 2-million barrels per day from the 2011 holiday. The five year perspective is even more dramatic - - the U.S. is bringing 3-million barrels per day more crude to market this year versus Thanksgiving 2008.