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Idaho gas prices: what you pay varies widely from county to county

Thursday's AAA survey shows a difference of $1.28 per gallon between the Idaho counties with the state's highest and lowest averages.

BOISE, Idaho — The average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline in the U.S. dropped below $4 Thursday morning. National headlines tout prices that haven't been that low since March, but drivers stopping to fuel up in Idaho -- especially the southern part of the state -- remain hard-pressed to find prices that low today.

While the nationwide average is $3.99, the statewide average for Idaho is nearly $4.74, according to the latest daily survey posted by AAA. The good news is the state's average, while still 93 cents higher than a year ago, has dropped 47 cents in the past month. Something to be aware of, if you haven't already noticed: How much you'll actually pay varies widely depending on where in Idaho you fuel up.

A little planning could make a big difference in how much you spend on your next road trip.

A county-by-county look at the AAA numbers shows a big difference between Boundary County, where the average of about $4.01 is the state's lowest, and Blaine County, where the average price of $5.29 is the highest. 

Average prices for counties in the Treasure Valley, Idaho's most populous area, are just a few cents above the statewide average, with prices around $4.80 in Gem and Payette counties, $4.82 in Ada, Canyon and Elmore counties, and $4.88 in Owyhee County.

While Blaine County has the highest average price in Idaho Thursday, prices in other counties that are home, or on the way, to mountain destinations popular with tourists aren't far behind. The average for Boise County is $5.27, a whopping 45 cents more than the average in neighboring Ada County. Average prices for Adams, Valley, Blaine, Camas, Teton, Fremont and Clark counties are at $4.90 or higher.

RELATED: Interactive Idaho map: Find the cheapest gas prices in your area

A little regional perspective on Idaho gas prices: while they are well above the nationwide average, Thursday's state average of $4.74 is lower than the neighboring states of Oregon ($4.88), Washington ($4.81) and Nevada ($4.94). Utah's average of $4.67 is a bit lower. Oregon and Idaho don't have in-state refineries; fuel has to be transported from refineries in Washington and Utah.

A little farther southwest, the average in California is a whopping $5.38 per gallon of regular unleaded, the highest in the country. Texas has the lowest average in the country, $3.49 a gallon.

The average price for diesel fuel remains above $5 per gallon nationally; the Idaho average was at $5.28 Thursday morning, about 60 cents lower than the record high set on June 26.

Because diesel fuels the commercial trucks that deliver goods around the country, those prices play a role in what consumers pay for everything from food to airfare. The inflation rate dropped from June to July, but the year-over-year increase in consumer prices for July 2022 compared to July 2021 still increased by 8.5%, near historic highs. Oil prices, which rose Wednesday by $1.43 to $91.93 per barrel of West Texas Intermediate, have generally declined since prices spiked following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. However, AAA reports increased demand and a tightened supply in the past week -- two factors that would likely push fuel prices up again if the trend continues.

"We may see a cyclical pattern in the run-up to Labor Day, where falling gas prices prompt an occasional surge in fuel demand, followed by upward pressure on crude oil and gas prices that curbs that demand," said Matthew Conde, AAA Idaho public affairs director, in an August 1 news release. "Significant price drops may come in the fall, provided that we avoid the misfortune of a hurricane making landfall near a major refinery or some other supply chain issue."

The Rockies region is typically one of the last parts of the country to react to national gas price trends, whether those trends are price increases or price decreases, Conde said.

To help stretch your budget a little further, Conde suggests planning trips or going to "one-stop shops" when running errands such as grocery shopping, banking and other activities; also, keeping tires properly inflated and never paying for premium gas unless your car's manufacturer specifically requires it.

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