Gas prices have reached historic lows, and experts say there is no end in sight.
Oil prices have continued to drop over the past eight weeks, with state averages reaching unusual lows of roughly $1.21 by Friday in states like Wisconsin, according to fuel data released by GasBuddy, a travel and navigation app meant to help consumers save money on gas.
In the West, prices remain higher than the national average, with Utah’s average gas price resting at $2.05 as of Friday. Nationally, the average cost per gallon for gasoline reached $1.74 Friday afternoon, which is down over a dollar from last year’s average of over $2.88.
GasBuddy’s research indicates the lowest recorded national average per gallon of gas was $1.59, which was reported in the midst of the Great Recession on Dec. 29, 2008.
Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said the dip in gas prices is directly related to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on working Americans.
“What we’re seeing is, of course, related to the coronavirus, which has kept millions of Americans apart, and gasoline demand — along with the price, accordingly — has plummeted,” he said.
De Haan said the dip in gas prices illustrates “a gaping wound” in the nation’s economy, which is a picture painted by tens of millions of Americans who have found themselves unemployed.
While the overall economic situation remains bleak, he said the nature of historically low gas prices gives motorists the chance to save a considerable amount of money compared to prices from a couple months ago.
De Haan said while there is a silver lining to the significant decrease in the price of gasoline per gallon, the event has an overall net negative impact.
“Obviously, gas prices going down, most Americans perceive as a good thing, but in this situation, it’s a band-aid on a deeply distressed economy that is obviously struggling,” he said. “Low gas prices are a function of the failing economy at this point.”
While prices have already declined over eight consecutive weeks, De Haan said consumers haven’t seen the bottom just yet, especially in states like Utah. While the decline in prices has remained fairly similar across all 50 states, he said some states have been barreling toward their lowest prices faster than others.
Utah and its surrounding states will continue to hold some of the most expensive gas in the nation as several states in the Western part of the United States began the decline with already high prices.
“I would say that the West Coast still has some of the steepest declines yet to come, simply for that reason,” he said. “They’re behind on the game, and there is a lot of catching up to do.”
Gas prices, he said, could continue to drop over the next few weeks and won’t begin to improve until the economy is stabilized, especially by people returning to work.
Once states start re-opening, De Haan said, he expects to see a “modest rebound” in gas prices.
“It certainly will not be a spike in light of the tremendous demand destruction that’s taken place over the last few months,” he said.
Overall, consumers should experience low gas prices for several months after the economy re-opens, although the prices will not remain some of the lowest.
De Haan said while prices are reaching all-time lows, consumers should still be shopping around in their areas to take advantage of the more inexpensive gas prices. For a lot of areas across the state of Utah, he said, there remains a significant difference in gas prices, even from one gas station to another.
Apps and websites, like GasBuddy, are available to help streamline the process and help consumers find the cheapest gas in their area.