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What ‘Summer Driving Season’ Will Cost You

Althea Chang
Big Data Download
What ‘Summer Driving Season’ Will Cost You

Summer driving season will be in full swing this Memorial Day weekend. Or will it?

Analysts have been questioning the long-held theory that demand for gasoline rises during the summer. The U.S. Energy Information Administration considers April through September to be the period when gas demand increases as vacationers take to the roads. And recent data show that drivers really are spending more on gas in the summer months.

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"We do see in gasoline spending that Americans are spending significantly more. This is really due to two reasons: We see increases in gasoline prices and we also see increases in the volume … of gasoline purchased," said Scott R. Baker, an Intuit Data scientist and Stanford University economist.

Overall, Americans can expect to spend between 6 percent and 13 percent more on gas in the summer months compared to the rest of the year, according to Intuit's budgeting website, Mint.com.

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Mint helps users track their credit and debit card spending habits and gathers data on 2 million of its users who have elected to provide their demographic data to the company. The company's data don't include cash spent on gas unless Mint.com users break out those transaction manually.

Last summer, Mint users' gas spending was nearly $13 more per month in the summer months than the rest of the year. Across the country, drivers spent about $221 on average per month last summer, which includes the months of May through August, according to Mint.com. That compares with an average of $208 spent on gas per month during the rest of the year.

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Mint users consistently spent more on gas every summer for the past several years. And year to year, regardless of season, gas spending has risen. In the first three months of this year, American households spent an average of $198 per month on gas compared with $110 per month in the same period in 2009, according to Intuit.

Higher seasonal demand isn’t necessarily correlated with higher gas prices, however.

"Forget what you’ve heard from various lunatics talking about a new era of $4.50-$5 gasoline," said GasBuddy chief oil analyst Tom Kloza. "That is the reality of ... people pushing an agenda, even in the case of where it is a planet-friendly agenda," Kloza said, adding that U.S. gas prices hit a late spring peak this year, but will likely fall in the next few weeks.

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