Gas Is No Bargain, But Still (Slightly) Cheaper Than Last Year

Think gas prices are high now? They're still lower than last year.

FE_DA_120420gas.jpg
By SHARE

If you think the sky-high prices at the pump are cringe worthy today, it's time for a reality check.

Average fuel prices are about $3.85 today, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge. That's down from a week ago, five cents cheaper than a month ago, and—take a trip down memory lane, folks—about a penny less than what drivers were paying a year ago.

That's not to say gas prices aren't steep. Californians and New Yorkers (among others) are still paying more than $4 a gallon on average—an expense that crimps consumers' budgets, experts say. And according to the Los Angeles Times, the last time gas was cheaper than the year prior was October 2009, which essentially means gas prices have been inching upward for the past 2 ½ years or so.

[See today's best photos.]

Still, more than one third of all U.S. states have lower gas prices today than they did a year ago, according to GasBuddy.com, a website that tracks fuel prices. Minnesota saw the largest decline, where average gas prices are 24 cents lower than a year ago. In Ohio, drivers are paying 17 cents less for a gallon of gas than they did a year ago. Even in America's automobile hub, Michigan, drivers have seen a 16-cent discount over last year's prices.

But where there are winners, there are losers. While residents in states such as Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin have seen a break on their gas bills, other states have suffered under an even heavier burden. Coloradans have been stuck paying 30 cents more for a gallon of gas than they did last year, while Montana residents have paid a 20-cent premium over last year's prices.

[Read: Americans Driving Less, Still Spending Cash On Cars.]

But relief could be on the way. After a huge run-up earlier this year in which some industry experts predicted $6-per-gallon gas, prices have eased slightly, falling over the past couple of weeks. "For those of you in an area with higher gasoline prices than last year, don't worry," Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com wrote in a recent post. "Prices should start falling in the next week or two for a majority of you."

Meg Handley is a business reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. You can also reach her at mhandley@usnews.com.