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Gas prices are a strong indicator of the economy’s health. Prices have been high the past few months, saddling Americans with stress. For many, driving is essential for working and surviving. So, what can you do when your gas mileage isn’t the best and you need to save money? And how do today’s gas prices compare to the year you started driving?

Americans are feeling the pinch at the pump

Gas prices by year
A customer pumps gas at a service station | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

There’s no doubt that Americans have been feeling the pinch at the pump for the past few months. It makes sense because today’s gas prices are the highest they’ve ever been. 

AAA reports that the average national gas price reached an all-time high on March 11, 2022, at $4.331 per gallon. 

Several factors affect the fluctuation of gas prices. The cost of crude oil affects 55% of the price. The refinery process impacts 14%. Marketing and distribution affect 16%, and taxes finish out the final 15%, according to HowStuffWorks

The supply and demand of crude oil is the aspect most responsible for driving the cost of a barrel of oil, thus affecting gas prices. Instability in other parts of the world and other uncertainties have also caused the world’s oil producers to slow their production. Add in worker shortages at refineries and transportation networks, and you have reduced productivity. That also diminishes the supply, ultimately passing the cost on to consumers.

The good news is that gas prices have begun to fall. According to CNBC, gas prices are below $4 per gallon for the first time since March. We can thank the decline in oil prices for the relief. It’s hard to say if prices will continue decreasing or possibly increase again. 

 View gas prices the year you started driving 

Gas prices have been at an all-time high, but now isn’t the only time when they’ve been astronomical. Thanks to meticulous recordkeeping, we can look back through history and see how much Americans paid for gas by the year.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has a handy tool that lets you see gas prices per year and month as far back as 1976.

TitleMax also offers an infographic that shows gas prices as far back as 1929. You can see what Americans paid at the pump and those prices adjusted for 2022. The adjustment accounts for the inflation that has happened throughout the years. 

Look at these gas prices at various periods in the past century: 

  • 1929: $0.21 (adjusted 2022 price: $3.59)
  • 1940: $0.18 (adjusted 2022 price: $3.72)
  • 1960: $0.31 (adjusted 2022 price: $3.04)
  • 1979: $0.86 (adjusted 2022 price: $3.52)
  • 1990: $1.15 (adjusted 2022 price: $2.58)
  • 2001: $1.46 (adjusted 2022 price: $2.39)
  • 2015: $2.45 (adjusted 2022 price: $2.99)
  • 2022: $4.90 

Here’s how to save on gas

Consumers can’t control gas prices, but we can change our habits to get the most out of every drop of fuel. Consider the following gas-saving tips:

Don’t let your gas tank get too low before refueling. Instead, try to keep your tank at no less than half. That’s especially needed during busier times of the year and the colder months when gas trucks take longer to reach service stations.

Additionally, keep your car serviced and in good condition. Also, get your oil changed regularly. Change your air filters, and maintain good air pressure in your tires. These maintenance steps will help your car use gas more efficiently. 

It’s a simple concept, but we’ll say it anyway: Drive your car less. Be mindful of when you use your vehicle. Carpool, and share the gas money. Complete several errands at a time, and plan the most efficient route. The less you drive, the less gas you use. 

Some service stations offer discounts if you pay in cash. You can also join programs such as Fuel Rewards to get deals.

Furthermore, top off your tank whenever you get gas. That reduces the number of times you have to use fuel to get to the service station for more gas. 

Finally, avoid buying premium gas. Unless your car requires high-octane gas, there’s no benefit to using it. Stick to regular unleaded and save money. 


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