Drivers making year-end travel plans are getting some relief at the pump with gasoline prices nearing their lowest levels in about a year.
Several retail stations in Michigan City and LaPorte were selling regular unleaded gasoline Wednesday for less than $3 a gallon and prices at other Northwest Indiana stations are closing in that mark.
According to GasBuddy.com, filling stations in Michigan City were charging anywhere from $2.96 to $3.17 a gallon with a vast majority under $3. The cheapest gas was $2.94 at Family Express along Indiana 2 at Pinola in LaPorte County.
"Supply is up and demand is low," said Beth Mosher, spokeswoman for the AAA Chicago Motor Club.
The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline cost is $3.12 in the Gary area Wednesday compared to $3.13 a gallon one year ago, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.
The national average Wednesday was nearly $3.23 a gallon and the Indiana statewide average was $3.10 a gallon. Mosher said the Indiana average Wednesday is lower than it was on the same day in 2011. However, she said gas prices in Indiana were the highest on record for a December in December 2011.
Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at gas price tracking website Gasbuddy.com, said the falling prices are good news for consumers, but the drop has to be put in perspective.
“Even with the seasonal price decline, 2012 is going to yield the highest average price ever paid – January through December– at $3.63 per gallon,” DeHaan said Wednesday.
AAA estimates the national average price of gasoline will slowly drop through the end of the year and average between $3.20 and $3.40 a gallon by New Year's Day. The organization also estimated about 93.3 million Americans would travel 50 or more miles from home during the year-end holidays, although Mosher said gas prices typically don't have an effect the plans people make.
Mohammed Aitlarvi, a clerk at GoLo along U.S. 35 in Michigan City said most of his customers are smiling.
''They're happy. Most of them are filling up now," Aitlarvi said. "They got extra money. Might as well just put it in the tank."