As summer turns to fall, a new season can bring new reasons to spend money. Higher heating bills, warmer clothing and upcoming holiday spending are all by-product expenses of the cooler weather approaching. But one regular purchase hitting wallets hard this year might be cheaper over the next few months.
As of September 15, gas retailers are officially allowed to switch over to winter gas blends, which are cheaper to produce and save consumers money at the pump.
As the fuel retailing trade organization NACS explains, demand for gas tends to be at its lowest during the first two months of the year and prices most reasonable at the beginning of February. However, September also sees dips in demand and prices, as demand increases gradually from February’s low to August’s peak.
According to GasBuddy, the switch from summer gas to winter blends can result in a 10-30 cent per gallon decrease in price from mid-September to the end of November, as people start to stick closer to home and drive less frequently.
Terminals and storage facilities have to purge their systems of winter fuel by May 1 and in most of the country, retailers have to switch over to summer blended gasoline by June 1. But switching over to winter blends in September is optional, according to NACS. Most retailers do the changeover and sell the less expensive blend to remain competitive.
Winter gasoline blends are generally cheaper because they have a higher Reid vapor pressure — a measure used to test fuel volatility — making evaporation easier and allowing cars to start better in cold weather. Evaporation in summer blends would cause increased emissions and cause more smog, per GasBuddy.
NACS states that consumers can expect an initial bump in gas price when retailers switch their systems over from summer to winter gasoline.
But don’t expect other types of fuel to decrease in price. Fall is also the time when demand for distillate fuel — diesel fuel for harvest and home heating oil for colder weather — increases.
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Gas prices have been in steady decline since record highs in June and average prices are now sitting in the $3-$4 range for most U.S. states (with some exceptions), per AAA. Despite experts like Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and the Bank of America predicting a winter spike in gas prices, lower winter fuel costs could give drivers a reason to smile as days get shorter, and an additional, much-needed break at the pumps.
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