CHICAGO — Hundreds of thousands of local drivers hitting the road for the holidays will get a welcome relief for their pocketbooks this week as gas prices hit a five-year low.
Two fuel price-tracking services report that city gas prices have not been this low since October 2009 — and may continue to drop.
ChicagoGasPrices.com said the average price for regular unleaded gasoline Tuesday was $2.52 per gallon in the city and suburbs. That's 55 cents per gallon lower than a month ago and a whopping 88 cents per gallon less than last Christmas.
AAA's Fuel Gauge Report shows the average pump prices for regular unleaded has dropped 16 cents in the past week within the city to $2.81 per gallon. It's a 49-cent drop from just a month ago.
"High supply, low demand, low oil prices," is how AAA's Beth Mosher explains it. “Lower gas prices are filling stockings with a little more cash to spend on travel this year as travelers are expected to pay the lowest prices since 2009."
AAA estimates more than 4.6 million Illinois residents will travel by automobile this holiday season, up nearly 5 percent over last year.
"There's been a shift in attitude of the Saudis," DeHaan said. "Suddenly the Saudis were cutting oil prices. Then Iran and Iraq heard that and they cut prices."
The even better news for motorists is that fuel prices are expected to continue to decline or stay low for the near future.
"In the near term, there is nothing on the horizon that would make us believe prices will rise," said Mosher. "This is really out of the ordinary. It's not the usual supply and demand issues — there's plenty of supply."
DeHaan thinks prices may fall a little bit more but is concerned about price increases down the road if the larger oil producing nations change course on pricing.
"I would say we're in the seventh-inning stretch," he says. "We'll probably see the bottom on price between now and the end of January. City drivers will see the $3 gas price signs stay up more often than the $4 signs. Overall 2015 will probably see the lowest average prices since 2009."
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: