"Every year between March and May, you have a lot of people buying into this market," Ritterbusch said. "They're trying to stay ahead of the crowd" and buy gasoline while it is still relatively cheap.
The Oil Price Information Service says the average U.S. price could rise as high as $4.25 per gallon. Prices will likely peak in late April, then fall through the summer as gasoline markets look ahead to a slowdown in travel during the fall.
Already drivers in Illinois, New York, Michigan, Connecticut, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia are paying prices around or above the $4 mark. California drivers are paying an average of $4.36 per gallon.
Drivers in Hawaii are paying the most, at $4.44 per gallon, while those in Wyoming are paying the least, at $3.30 per gallon. Prices vary throughout the U.S. because of differing state taxes, transportation costs and other regional expenses.
Oil prices fell Monday after Chinese trade data suggested a weakening global economy. China reported a slowdown in growth in both imports and exports in its February trade data over the weekend.
Benchmark West Texas Intermediate gave up $1.06 to end at $106.34 per barrel in New York. Brent crude fell by 64 cents to end at $125.34 per barrel in London.
Natural gas dipped to a new 10-year low, falling by 5.5 cents to end at $2.27 per 1,000 cubic feet. Natural gas prices have plummeted this year thanks to a recent boom in production and weak heating demand this winter.
In other energy trading, heating oil fell by 2 cents to finish at $3.24 per gallon and gasoline futures gave up nearly a penny to end at $3.32 per gallon.
Gas price averages
Monday • $3.56
Week ago • $3.44
Year ago • $3.40
Record high • $4.22 on July 18, 2008
Monday • $3.80
Week ago • $3.77
Year ago • $3.51
Record high • $4.11 on July 17, 2008
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