California gas prices reached a record high this week, leaving local drivers feeling penny pinched at the pump.
The cost of fuel in Turlock ranged from $4.37 to $4.85 per gallon as of Friday, the same day that AAA’s gas price monitor reported an average price of $4.70 per gallon statewide. The average represents yet another new record high for gas prices in California, up five cents from a week ago, almost 20 cents from a month ago and $1.53 cents more than this time last year.
California’s average gas price is almost $1.30 more than the national average of $3.41 per gallon, and the average price in Stanislaus County is $4.61 per gallon.
According to GasBuddy, a fuel-based tech company, the reopening of America’s economy hasn’t resulted in more drivers traveling for Thanksgiving this year. In fact, just 32% of drivers surveyed said they would be traveling for the holiday in 2021 compared to 35% last year at the height of the pandemic. In 2019, 65% planned to hit the road for Thanksgiving.
The national average price of gasoline is projected to decline to $3.35 per gallon on Thanksgiving Day, still amongst the highest the country has seen in over seven years. But there remains a remote chance that should oil suddenly surge, gas prices could quickly follow and potentially beat 2012’s record for most expensive national average ever for the date: $3.44 per gallon.
“Similarly to last year, motorists are contending with a rise in COVID cases ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday when many drive to celebrate with friends and family. Only this year, we’re also just cents away from the highest Thanksgiving gas prices ever recorded,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “With global oil demand surging this year as the pandemic has eased, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory – some of the highest Thanksgiving gas prices on record. Americans are responding to the prices by slamming the car door shut and staying off the road.”
The high gas prices are impacting travel more than COVID, with 75% of those surveyed stating the coronavirus hasn’t impacted their travel plans, up substantially from 46% last year. Fifty percent of Americans say they are driving less overall this year, according to the survey, and when asked what it would take for them to drive more, an overwhelming 78% said lower gas prices.
Some people can’t afford not to drive, like Hilmar resident Aaron Bennett. He drives from Hilmar to Stockton five days per week for work, traveling a total of 120 miles per day and 600 miles per week. When he first started commuting about a year ago, Bennett spent about $300 to $400 per month on gas.
Now, he’s spending an extra $100 each month thanks to the surging gas prices.
“The cost of filling up stayed pretty consistent at first, then in March of this year it just started spiking,” Bennett said. “It’s affected my savings plan. What I was saving before now just goes towards gas, and it’s not just gas prices — everything is going through price increases right now.”
Bennett had been saving to move closer to his job in Stockton, he said, but now feels as if he’s moving backwards as increasing fuel costs prevent him from saving and continue to drain his bank account as he commutes.
“It’s a double whammy,” Bennett said.
Turlock’s cheapest gas is available at the Valero station on Geer Road and Costco for $4.37, while Chevron offers the highest prices at $4.85. To find local gas prices, visit www.gasbuddy.com.