Time to Cancel the Road Trip? Highest End-of-Summer Gas Prices Ever

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The average price for a gallon of gas now stands at $3.72. That’s nearly 40¢ higher than the summer’s low, which was reached in early July, just a few weeks ago. It’s also the highest ever average gas price for this time of year.

After the recent spike in prices at the pump, the on-again, off-again predictions that 2012 will be the priciest year ever for gasoline appear to be on again. We are on pace to be living through the most expensive year for gas, and we are most certainly driving around during the priciest end-of-summer period ever.

As the Associated Press and others have reported, gas prices in August and early September stayed below $3.70 during the pricey summers of 2008 and 2011. Lately, the national average is $3.72, and the Energy Information Administration actually listed an average of $3.744 as of August 20. What’s more, analysts anticipate average prices at or around $3.75 through Labor Day, making 2012’s end-of-summer/back-to-school season the most expensive ever.

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It might be expected that the late-summer spike in gas prices could cause drivers to reconsider travel plans. But according to AAA data cited by USA Today, Labor Day 2012 is shaping up as a big road trip weekend, regardless of how much gas costs. Some 33 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home over the upcoming holiday weekend, a 2.9% increase over last year.

When fuel costs remain high, it becomes more important than ever to try to cut back on how much you pay at the pump. Saving just a little per gallon can help.

In addition to some of the classic ways to get cheaper gasoline, it’s worth considering new-ish tools such as the Fuel Rewards Network. The program, run by Shell, offers discounts on gas when you spend money with grocery stores, restaurants, and other participating retailers. Spend $50 at a supermarket, for instance, and you can get 5¢ off per gallon.

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Another option, reported by GasBuddy, is the forthcoming “Smart Card” from ExxonMobile. The new loyalty card, which will be available as of August 31, will give a 6¢ per gallon rebate at all participating stations. To get the rebate, though, you must pump at least 45 gallons per statement period (once a month), and there is a 100-gallon per month maximum for rebates, meaning the most you’ll save is $6 monthly.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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