MYRTLE BEACH — Drivers might have noticed gas prices ticking up in the Myrtle Beach area, but they aren’t rising here as much as most other parts of the state, according to www.fuelgaugereport.com.
A gallon of regular unleaded in the Myrtle Beach area is going for an average $3.29, up about seven cents in the last month, according to the website. Statewide, the price has jumped 14 cents in the past month to an average $3.35.
Prices are up 17 cents a gallon in Charleston to an average $3.42 and up 15 cents a gallon in Columbia and Greenville, according to the website.
Those average prices still are lower than this time last year, when gas was going for an average $3.41 in the Myrtle Beach area – 12 cents higher than today.
Prices in South Carolina have been ticking up since hitting a low of $3.02 on Dec. 20, and have been increasing more rapidly since mid-January, according to AAA Carolinas.
Higher crude oil prices combined with refineries preparing to switch to summer-blend gasoline, which restricts output and tightens supply, have led to the higher prices at the pumps, according to AAA Carolinas.
Myrtle Beach prices might not be increasing as much as other areas because there’s not as much demand during the tourist off-season, said Angela Vogel Daley, spokeswoman for AAA Carolinas. Prices also are determined in part by competition among local gas stations, she said.
Prices are expected to stay about the same through the upcoming weekend, which is a busy one along the Grand Strand with the Myrtle Beach Marathon and other visitors taking advantage of the three-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.
Nationally, gas prices average about $3.60 a gallon, up 20 cents from a month ago. In North Carolina, the average is $3.54 a gallon, up 16 cents from a month ago.
Prices will continue to tick up in the coming weeks, but aren’t expected to hit the same levels as last year, Daley said. In 2012, gas prices in South Carolina hit a high of $3.74 a gallon in April.
“We do expect it to trend upward,” she said. “We don’t expect it to be that significant [as last year’s increase].”
Most of Myrtle Beach’s visitors drive here, but this type of increase in gas prices isn’t likely to make them reconsider their trips, city spokesman Mark Kruea said. Prices would have to hover around $4 a gallon before it started cutting into their vacation budgets, he said.
Kruea’s more concerned about how the end of a payroll tax cut could affect visitor spending this year. A temporary payroll tax cut for Social Security expired at the start of 2013, which has left every worker taking home at least 2 percent less every paycheck.
“I think people are used to some fluctuations in gas prices,” Kruea said. “That 2 percent out of people’s paychecks instantly that they weren’t expecting – that’s kind of the question.”
Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at email@example.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.