Gas prices on Memorial Day weekend expected to be highest in 7 years -- here's why

Taking to the road over Memorial Day weekend? Experts say gas prices will be around $3.00 per gallon - the highest since the 2014 holiday weekend, according to AAA.

According to the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average gas price across the United States for the week of May 17 was $3.11 per gallon. The week before that, prices averaged out at $3.05 per gallon.

Patrick De Haan, head of Petroleum Analysis at GasBuddy, said the effects of the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack and increased demand are to blame.

"Prices have been going up, really, since last November and that's just a story that the vaccine continues to allow," De Haan said. "Americans are getting back to normal. You couldn't drive to go see an MLB game, but now you can. You couldn't drive to go see a NHL game, and now you can. There's a lot more things for Americans to do now that the economy's reopening."

Travelers are expected to turn out in big numbers over the holiday weekend -- AAA predicted 37 million Americans will travel by air and road from Thursday to Sunday.

"I'd say what we're seeing now is just the market stabilizing, in terms of seeing pumps being refueled, but also remaining high because we know demand is going to be pretty significant," Jeanette McGee, director of AAA's external communications, told ABC News.

Despite a modest recovery in the weeks following the pipeline incident, southern states are still experiencing outages -- with 29% of South Carolina gas stations, 27% of Georgia gas stations and 25% of North Carolina gas stations out of fuel, according to GasBuddy.com.

"For motorists around most of the country, there's not a whole lot to worry about, unless you're in the southeast where you still may have a bit of a headache when choosing to fill up," De Haan said.

For those traveling this weekend, McGee recommended filling up once you hit a quarter tank.

"Keep your eye on your fuel tank. When you hit that quarter or quarter of a tank left, make sure at that point a little light goes off in your head and you consider filling up," McGee said. "You don't want to get too far down the road and run out of gas. It's just not good for your car and it's not good for your wallet."

McGee also suggested lower prices might be found in town as opposed gas stations just off the highway.

Travelers may also want to begin their trips at off-peak times, McGee added, explaining that the heaviest traffic is expected on Thursday and Friday afternoons.

"So if you're heading out, we always recommend leaving early or late to avoid that rush hour," McGee said.

For the rest of the summer, McGee said drivers can expect that $3 national average to stick around. De Haan said he expects the national average will bounce around between $2.75 to $3.25 a gallon.

"In general, the more expensive gas prices don't keep people home," McGee said. "Especially this year with all the pent-up demand, and the additional, you know, discretionary income people have from not traveling this past year -- we expect those vacations to definitely continue, those road trips to be extremely popular."
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