Gas prices have doubled in the past year: What Wisconsin drivers can expect this summer

One year ago today, gas was $1.45/gallon in Madison

MADISON, Wis. — Gas prices are up another 3 cents in Madison to start the month of May, and experts warn this is just a taste of the trend travelers can expect all summer.

“One year ago, the average gas prices in Madison were only $1.45,” remembered GasBuddy’s Patrick De Haan.

Of course, that was during the height of the pandemic, when Americans were parking their cars and staying home. Demand for gas plummeted, and prices did too.

What a difference a year makes.

De Haan is now warning drivers: the summer price surge has already started. As of May 3, 2021, gas is averaging $2.71/gallon in Madison, according to GasBuddy, which is on par with prices from two years ago. But while prices usually peak mid-spring, as stations switch to their summer blend, De Haan expects this year to be different.

“We could see the trajectory of rising gas prices potentially through the summer or even into late summer,” he explained.

That’s because demand is expected to remain high. So high, in fact, AAA has coined 2021, “The Year of the Roadtrip.”

Nick Jarmusz, from AAA Wisconsin, says the agency’s ‘Consumer Pulse’ travel survey shows Americans are more likely to vacation this year, although many remain hesitant to travel by plane.

“National and state parks top the list,” Jarmusz said. “As well as beach destinations. Travelers are essentially landlocked to the states.”

“It’s a banner year for domestic tourism,” De Haan agreed. “That’s why a lot of popular tourist destinations like Orlando and Las Vegas are struggling with rental cars.”

Many car dealerships, like Toyota, are renting out parts of their fleet to increase supply. Travelers can also use websites like Turo and Getaround to rent directly from car owners, similar to Airbnb.

So how high could gas prices go?

De Haan says he wouldn’t be surprised if prices eclipse $3/gallon, but he doesn’t expect any records to be set this season. None of the current price increases are the result of short supply, although with demand so high, GasBuddy warns we’re just one refinery issue or outage away from a shortage and even higher prices.