A record 43.2 million people are expected to travel by car this July 4 holiday, according to AAA, the motoring and leisure travel membership organization.
The good news for those drivers is that gas prices around the country are lower than they were last year.
The national average for a gallon of gas is $3.54 as of July 3, down from $4.81 one year ago, according to AAA.
Last year’s high prices prompted politicians on the state and federal level to call for gas tax holidays.
More from Personal Finance:
Social Security phone mishaps hampered beneficiary services
Your 401(k) plan may be worsening climate change
Psychologist recommends spending plans over budgeting
Though gas prices are currently still high compared to historical averages, drivers have no plans to cut back on road travel, according to AAA.
That’s as this summer is proving to be a particularly popular travel time. The busier season has not been without complications, including mass flight disruptions leading into the July 4 holiday.
A recent Bankrate survey found 63% of adults plan to take a summer vacation this year, up from 61% last year.
“People want to go somewhere, they want to do something,” said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate and CreditCards.com. “There’s still a lot of pent-up demand that backed up during the pandemic.”
That demand has helped push categories like airfares and hotels higher this year, Rossman noted.
Bankrate’s survey found 80% of travelers are planning to adjust their plans due to higher prices.
Opting to drive instead of fly was one of the more common changes, according to Rossman, in addition to choosing cheaper accommodations or destinations and traveling for fewer days.
Travelers who are hitting the road by car or other vehicle may also look for ways to cut costs on gas.
1. Be proactive about finding lower prices
Those hitting the road this weekend may want to fill up if they’re passing through the least expensive markets, according to AAA’s recent ranking of the top 10 least expensive markets.
That includes Mississippi, with prices around $2.97 per gallon; Louisiana, $3.08; Alabama, $3.10; Tennessee, $3.10; Arkansas, $3.11; South Carolina, $3.17; Texas, $3.18; Oklahoma, $3.22; Georgia, $3.23; and North Carolina, $3.25.
Drivers everywhere may save by using apps to help them find better gas prices, such as Upside or GasBuddy, according to Rossman.
2. Look for a good gas rewards credit card
Some credit cards may give you up to 5% cash back on gas, according to Rossman. That includes brands such as Chase Freedom Flex and Discover it Cash Back, he said, which are offering that rate between July and September.
Sam’s Club also offers certain cards that will allow consumers to earn money back on gas.
It is also worthwhile to check the perks your existing credit cards may offer, Rossman said.
“You may have a good gas rewards credit card and not even realize it,” Rossman said.
Of note, it is generally best to avoid gas-branded cards, which may come with high 30% annual interest rates and limited discounts on gas purchases, he said.
3. Try stacking discounts
Drivers should also look to stack offers where they can. For example, a credit card may offer 5% cash back on gas, and a gas station app may provide a 10% offer per gallon, Rossman said.
“That’s two ways to save instead of one,” he said.
4. Double-check your car rental coverage
Rental cars are also comparatively cheaper this year, Rossman said.
If you’re thinking of renting a car, be sure to double-check whether your credit card may already offer insurance coverage.
“A lot of times, credit cards have various travel perks built in that people may not even realize they have,” Rossman said, which may also include provisions for trip delays or cancellations as well as lost or delayed luggage.