McHenry County residents traveling over Memorial Day weekend are ringing in the start of the summer driving season with some of the highest gas prices in the state.
Illinois’ gas prices were well below the national average at the start of the year, but have continued to climb. As of Friday, McHenry and Kane counties ranked Nos. 6 and 4, respectively, for the highest gas prices statewide, surpassing $3 per gallon according to the fuel analysis group Gas Buddy.
Wonder Lake resident Brandon Schaffer leaned against his car Friday as he filled his tank at the Mobil gas station in Woodstock, 144 N. Seminary Ave. Schaffer, who fills up once or twice a week, has seen gas prices fluctuate over the years, and felt it in his pocket at times when gas has soared to more than $4 a gallon.
On Wednesday, he put about 6 gallons of gas in his tank for $20.
“It’s not as expensive as it used to be, but it’s still pretty expensive,” Schaffer said.
The 21-year-old said he generally goes to the nearest gas station to fill up, but driving a few extra miles to refuel could keep money in the pockets of local drivers Memorial Day weekend, Gas Buddy senior petroleum analyst Dan McTeague said.
“There’s a significant differential between counties,” he said.
The average cost of gas in McHenry County on Friday was $3.14 a gallon, up 10 cents from last month, according to the fuel analysis company Gas Buddy. McHenry County and its neighboring counties – Lake, Kane, DuPage, Cook and Will counties – have some of the highest gas prices in the state, which already ranks 15th most expensive in the country for fuel costs, according to Gas Buddy data.
As of Friday, the average cost of gasoline in Cook County was $3.25, followed by DuPage and Will counties at $3.172 and $3.167 per gallon, respectively.
In Kane County, drivers paid an average $3.16 a gallon Friday, and in Lake County, $3.15, according to Gas Buddy.
Areas with more competition or simply a higher consumer demand have begun to drop their prices a gallon in step with a fall in oil prices, McTeague said. Those savings could take time to catch up to Illinois’ northwest suburbs, where gas stations could be struggling to move inventory they purchased when oil prices were still on the rise, he said.
“We’ve seen oil and gasoline drop about 10% in value just in the past week or so,” McTeague said. “That may not have caught up yet with gas stations that haven’t sold as much gasoline.”
So what does that mean for McHenry County residents traveling out of town during Memorial Day weekend? According to McTeague, it might mean drivers are better off filling their tanks en route to their destinations, depending on where they’re headed.
“Knowing where the best prices are is quite often a distinct advantage,” he said.
Purchasing fuel at a pump in Winnebago County rather than McHenry County, for example, would save drivers about $6 to fill up a 14-gallon tank, according to Gas Buddy price averages as of Friday.
Good news is on its way, however, as prices are likely to drop in the near future, McTeague said.
“I think if you can wait it out the prices are going to drop a little bit, they have to,” he said.
Still, factors beyond the cost of oil could again raise prices as Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled a $41.5 billion capital plan, which would distribute about $23 billion for roads and bridges and $3.4 billion for mass transit.
Another $440 million would go toward a Chicago-area transportation efficiency program, while education would get $5.9 billion.
Higher education would get
$2.4 billion for deferred campus maintenance and $1 billion would help fund renewable energy works and environmental, conservation and recreation projects.
To pay for it, Pritzker has proposed hiking the state’s gas tax from 19 cents a gallon to 38 cents, generating about $560 million annually, the Associated Press reported.
It’s unclear how the tax hike might specifically affect areas such as McHenry County, which levies its own motor fuel tax.
Either way, drivers are likely to pay more at the pump as a result, according to a recent Illinois Policy report.
The report cited a Tax Foundation finding that Illinois residents already pay the “10th highest average total state and local tax burden on gasoline at 37.32 cents per gallon.”
It’s also one of only seven states where drivers are faced with general state and local sales taxes on gas, according to the report.