Falling gas prices and an improving economy will contribute to an increase in Labor Day holiday travel by South Carolinians for the third straight year, making it the highest number of travelers in seven years, according to AAA Carolinas.
More than 455,500 Palmetto State residents — a 1 percent increase from 2014 — are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, the organization said in a news release. Of those travelers, about 392,000, or 86 percent, will be driving, AAA said.
South Carolina has the lowest gas prices in the nation, according to several sources, caused in large part by the nation’s third-lowest state gas tax of 16.75 cents a gallon. The state’s tax levy hasn’t changed since 1987.
Those driving this holiday weekend will encounter the lowest gas prices in 11 years. The low prices are caused by the plunge in world-wide crude prices, which closed slightly higher Thursday at $46.75 per barrel.
South Carolina’s state-wide average is $2.01 per gallon, according to AAA. GasBuddy.com listed the average price per gallon in South Carolina at $1.99.
But many Rock Hill-area stations are selling gas for 20 or 30 cents less than that. Two 7-Eleven stores on Cherry Road were selling regular unleaded for $1.69 on Thursday.
“Lower gas prices and an extended weekend should motivate South Carolinians to hop in their vehicles for one more family road trip as the summer travel season comes to a close,” said Dave Parsons, CEO and president of AAA Carolinas.
Motorists were paying an average $1.15 more per gallon statewide on Labor Day a year ago, according to AAA. Gas prices in South Carolina have fallen 43 cents per gallon since July 4, allowing consumers to keep more money in their wallets and spend slightly more on hotels and food, AAA said.
“The holiday weekend will be the highlight of what has already been a banner year for South Carolina tourism, the state’s top industry,” Katie Montgomery, communications director for the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, told The State.
“Low gas prices mean travelers have more money in their pockets,” she said. “A road trip won’t cost as much this holiday weekend, giving visitors the chance to enjoy our hotels, restaurants and all South Carolina has to offer.”
South Carolina motorists will encounter higher gas prices in North Carolina ($2.22), Georgia ($2.28), Virginia ($2.19) and Tennessee ($2.14), according to AAA.
Average regular gas prices per gallon by state
1) South Carolina $1.992
2) Alabama $2.055
3) Mississippi $2.055
4) Louisiana $2.138
5) Tennessee $2.140
6) Arkansas $2.158
7) New Jersey $2.168
8) Virginia $2.185
9) Texas $2.205
10) North Carolina $2.219