AAA forecasts spring gas prices will be highest since 2015

Drivers should brace for higher gas prices this spring.

Although prices at the pump have fallen in recent weeks, AAA predicts that the national gas price average will jump to $2.70 a gallon this spring and early summer. The last time gas reached that level was the spring/summer of 2015, when motorists were paying $2.81 a gallon.

AAA expects prices to jump in early April, around the time when refineries switch over to their summer blend, which is more expensive. If you need someone to blame, look no further than oil production.

“There is tremendous volatility in the oil and gasoline market,” said AAA spokesperson Jeanette Casselano. “This spring, consumers may have to make decisions on where they can cut costs to cover gas prices that are potentially 40 cents more per gallon than last spring.”

Globally, crude oil markets have experienced a lot of ups and downs over the last couple of months. Brent crude oil hit $70.05 a barrel January, reaching its highest level since 2014 and West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. standard, reached $64 a gallon. Some analysts are forecasting oil to reach $80 a barrel in 2018, which would raise gas prices this summer. Even so, there are a lot of factors (US  gasoline supply-demand levels, domestic gasoline production rates and global crude demand) that could alter this prediction, so it’s too soon to tell.

While gas prices will likely climb, experts don’t predict them to reach the levels of 2011-2014, when the average gas price was $3.47 a gallon. Still, some states will get hit harder than others. AAA predicts that motorists in California could see gas reach $4 a gallon this spring, but it will be temporary.

What you can do

In a survey with consumers, AAA found that motorists plan to make lifestyle changes if gas prices increase over the next couple of months. About 40% said they would start making changes when gas reaches $3 a gallon. Another 25% said their breaking point would be $2.75 a gallon.

Here are a couple of ways drivers can save fuel:

  • Combine errands: 79% of survey respondents said they would consider this to save on fuel. One effective way to combine errands is to park in a central location ad walk from location to location if possible.

  • Drive slower: According to the Department of Energy, motorists use more fuel the faster they drive. In fact, every 5 mph over 50 mph is like paying 18 cents more a gallon. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

  • Keep it light: Heavier cars require more fuel, so if you can avoid it, don’t weigh down your vehicle. In other words, don’t use your trunk for storage.

Brittany is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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