When Will Gas Prices Go Down?

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Sticker shock is happening at pumps across the United States as gas prices continue to rise. Money expert Clark Howard says as the price of fuel steadily increases, it’s eating into Americans’ budgets.

“As a consumer, as you go to fill up your vehicle right now with the higher prices,” Clark says, “every single dollar extra you’re having to spend on gasoline is a dollar you don’t have to spend on food, or eating out or entertainment, going to shop, whatever it is.”

The average price for a gallon of gas nationwide, as of April 21, 2022, was $4.120 per gallon according to AAA. That’s down from our last check on March 18 at $4.274. Prices are as high as $5.69 a gallon on the West Coast.

What Is the Average Price of Gas Right Now?

Screenshot via aaa.com on April 21, 2022

So what’s up with the increase, and when will fuel prices go back down?

Why Are Gas Prices So High?

Clark says several factors have led to an increase in gas prices in the United States and across the globe.

It all started with the drop in oil demand that occurred because of lockdowns at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Clark says on his podcast.

“That cycle is what led to the much higher prices that we had pre-Ukrainian war,” he adds. “It’s because a lot of oil production stopped. Oil was capped, and only now is production getting back to where it was.”

Of course, the Russia-Ukrainian crisis hasn’t helped with the price of fuel at all. “Once war started, oil markets went berzerk. And so prices climbed very quickly,” he adds.

When Are Fuel Prices Going Down?

Clark says oil prices have tumbled as of late, but gas prices are still high.

“The price of a barrel of oil has come way down, but what you and I are paying for gasoline is still way up. I have run the numbers and I’ve used various industry formulas,” Clark says. “It looks like right now we’re paying from $1.07 a gallon to $1.15 a gallon more than the price of a barrel of oil should indicate what we’re having to pay at retail.”

In the near term, until the Russia-Ukraine situation stabilizes and the markets can follow their due course of self-correction, consumers will continue to endure some pain at the pump, Clark says.

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“If the price of a gallon of oil stays where it is today, what will happen is — even though the prices all zoomed up in a two-week period — the decline would usually take eight times longer,” he says. “Four months is how long it will usually take. So for every week that you have a runup in prices, it tends to take quite a bit longer for those prices to come back down: eight times as long.”

Where Can You Expect To See Cheaper Gas Prices First?

Clark says that, contrary to popular belief, the major oil companies no longer control gas prices like they used to. Because the Shells and Exxons of the world govern the price of gas only at their branded gas stations, here’s where to look for price breaks in gasoline first.

Wholesale Clubs

“The two national wholesale clubs and the regional one — Costco, Sam’s and BJ’s Wholesale — now push out an enormous number of gallons sold in the United States,” Clark says. “And they are generally the first ones to move their prices down.”

He says you’ll see a big gap between prices at the warehouse stores compared and oil-company-owned gas stations.

Independent Gas Stations

Also operating out of the orbit of the major oil companies are independent gas station chains such as Sheetz, Wawa, QuikTrip and RaceTrac.

“These people buy gas independently. They have huge fueling operations,” Clark says. “And their prices much more trend like the warehouse prices than what the majors are doing at their stations.”

Until gas prices moderate, what can you do?

How To Spend Less on Gas Right Now

By doing the little things, you can save money on what you pay for fuel. Here are some tips.

1. Cut Down on Idling Your Engine

It may be normal for you to idle your engine before you start your drive. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you’re wasting money.

“Idling can use a quarter to a half-gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use, adding up to three cents of wasted fuel a minute,” the agency says.

2. Don’t Speed

Lowering your speed can translate into savings at the pump, according to the federal government’s 2022 Fuel Economy Guide.

“Each 5 MPH you drive over 60 MPH can reduce your fuel economy by 7%,” the guide says.

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You can look up a more personalized estimate of your vehicle’s fuel economy on the website’s Find Your Car page.

3. Download Gas Apps

Clark is a big fan of using gas apps to help you find the cheapest prices in your area.

“If you use an app like GasBuddy, you’re able to see right on your phone right near where you are the cheapest price for a gallon of gas,” Clark says.

Here’s a list of gas apps that can help you save money:

Final Thoughts

Clark says it’s hard to know how the gas situation will play out. “The wholesale price of a barrel of oil could go much higher than it is now depending on what happens in Europe.”

To avoid paying an even higher price for gas out of desperation, try to keep plenty of gas in your tank.

“You don’t wait until you’re on fumes to look for gasoline, especially in a time like this,” he says.

How are gas prices affecting your wallet? Tell us about gas prices in your area in our Clark.com Community!

Here are even more ways to save at the pump.

More Gas-Saving Resources From Clark.com:

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