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Cheapest fuel since 2005 brings US drivers 'Christmas in July'

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American drivers are preparing to hit the road this Fourth of July as seasonal gas prices plunge to their lowest in 12 years.

[NEW YORK] American drivers are preparing to hit the road this Fourth of July as seasonal gas prices plunge to their lowest in 12 years.

US drivers will pay an average of US$2.21 a gallon (3.79 litres) for gasoline over the holiday weekend, the lowest since 2005, according to Boston-based price tracker GasBuddy. For the first time in 17 years, gasoline prices are expected to be lower on July 4 than on New Year's Day.

"It's thrilling to see gas prices falling just in time for the most-traveled summer holiday," Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst, said in an emailed statement. "Perhaps we can finally get rid of the myth that gas prices go up for the holiday."

Over the last decade, the national average has been as much as US$1.04 a gallon higher during the summer holiday compared with the beginning of the year. The average Independence Day price is 47 US cents higher.

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Heathrow, Florida-based automobile association AAA said last week that a record-breaking 44.2 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles away from home over the Fourth of July weekend.

The difference in gasoline prices in any given city on July 4 will reach historic highs, GasBuddy said. This means there is a higher chance consumers will overpay at the pump over the holiday weekend.

The spread between the nation's lowest and highest priced gas stations stood at US$1.29 a gallon on Wednesday, compared with the 10-year average of 98 US cents a gallon for this time of year, according to GasBuddy. SUV drivers can save on average US$11 per fill-up by stopping at the favourable end of the price spread. Smaller cars can save US$6.

If you're taking to the skies this holiday weekend, you're in good company. Air travel is projected to rise 4.6 per cent over the period that AAA defines as June 30 through July 4. With domestic airfares 10 per cent lower this year, 3.44 million people are expected to fly. That's up 4.6 per cent from last year, with an average round trip domestic ticket landing at US$186.

"Motorists are getting a well-deserved break at the pump after years of high summer gas prices," Mr DeHaan said. "This is like Christmas in July, instead of seeing fireworks at the pumps like we saw just a few short years ago."

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