Gas prices are down but projected to rise again. How much will gas cost in 2023?

Filling up your car or truck probably will cost less in 2023 than it did in 2022.

The lowest expected prices for gas will come in February, with a national average of $2.99 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, fuel-savings app GasBuddy forecasts. But prices could hit $4 for a gallon of gas during the peak of travel season next summer, the company said in a forecast released Wednesday.

After a turbulent year when gas prices hit a record-high national average of $5 a gallon, costs dropped to about $3.06 a gallon this week, tweeted Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, on Tuesday. The tech company's app provides real-time gas price information for more than 150,000 gas stations nationwide.

How high will gas get in 2023?

Twenty-six states now have gas prices below $3 a gallon, GasBuddy says.

That could soon change. GasBuddy expects average gas prices in June to rise to $3.79 to $4.19 as the summer travel season kicks in, the company said. The average cost per gallon could go as high as $4.25 in August, then drop closer to $3 a gallon by year's end.

Overall, the national average for 2023 is expected to be about $3.49 a gallon, down from the average of $3.96 in 2022, according to GasBuddy.

Similarly, the Energy Information Administration forecast this month that U.S. retail gasoline prices will average about $3.50 a gallon in 2023.

Why were gas prices so high in 2022?

Gasoline and oil prices began to rise in 2022 after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Prices were driven up by U.S. and European Union sanctions hampering Russia's ability to sell crude oil. By December, gas prices had retreated below what it cost per gallon before Russia's invasion.

“What we saw in 2022 was simply madness at the nation’s fuel pumps, with records being set seemingly left and right as COVID imbalances persisted and Russia invaded Ukraine," De Haan said in the forecast. "While it’s highly improbable that lightning strikes the same spot twice, the storm clouds over oil and refined markets may persist, and there still could be some spikes as the market remains somewhat tight."

When were gas prices most expensive?

The current national average for regular unleaded gasoline, according to AAA, is $3.10, 2 cents lower than a week ago and 45 cents lower than one month ago. The highest-ever average price hit $5.016 on June 14, AAA said.

Russia's assault on Ukraine, inflation and global economic concerns could bring continued volatility in the new year.

"Curveballs are coming from every direction," De Haan said. "However, with prices starting to moderate as imbalances are worked through, Americans are going to start to feel that gas prices are no longer as much of a thorn in their side in 2023."

Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gas prices: Expect to pay less in 2023, but prices could hit $4 again