Low gas prices make for one of the most affordable Labor Days ever

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SAYREVILLE, N.J. (PIX11) -- At least 80 percent of Labor Day weekend vacationers are traveling by car, according to the American Automobile Association, and the number of drivers overall is up this year, due to gas prices being at their lowest levels since 2010.

"If I was already traveling for Labor Day," said Cathleen Lewis of AAA New Jersey Auto Club, "I'm gonna go, 'Wow, gas is much cheaper than I expected. Maybe I get to go to dinner one more time, maybe the kids get that extra ice cream trip."

"For someone who hadn't planned on traveling," Lewis said, "[cheaper gas] means 'I can actually go.'"

Her expert assessment was echoed by actual motorists, like Paul Champion, of Atlantic County. He said that he'd paid $3.11 per gallon in his town on Friday, far lower than the $3.70 he said gas cost him at this time last year.

"I can actually go somewhere," Champion, who owns a construction company, said. "The extra $100 to maybe $300 I'd save on a trip [in gas receipts] is a night, maybe two nights at a moderate motel, or hotel."

Alicia Flora, a minivan driver from Central New Jersey, talked about how the price difference works in her favor.

"My parents are in Pennsylvania, which is where I'm on my way to now," she told PIX11 News. "And [gas] is much more expensive there." So she was filling up in New Jersey to lower her travel cost.

Nationwide, according to AAA, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded is $3.43. But on New Jersey's toll highways, the turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, the price is 15 cents below the national average. And on local New Jersey streets, the price is even lower.

At a few stations in the Garden State, including one on Route 9 North in Lakewood, the cash price is $2.99 per gallon. Not only that, New Jersey law requires that all gas -- including the cheapest around -- be pumped full serve.

The low prices have resulted in high tourist turnout Down the Shore. Tourism numbers are estimated by the Jersey Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau to be at or above pre-Superstorm Sandy levels. In some shore towns, according to the bureau, tourism numbers are up 25 to 30 percent from last year.

Part of the reason for the higher numbers are people like Frank Aspromonte. He's a Brooklyn resident who said he was thankful to have had some personal business to tend to in New Jersey on Friday.

"Even with the gas and tolls," Aspromonte said, "coming here, I save ten or fifteen bucks" per fill up.

The low gas prices are the result of the highest gasoline output in the U.S. in 50 years, coupled with the lowest demand in 7 years. New Jersey has the lowest average gas prices in the Northeast, according to AAA.

That's due to the Garden State having some of the lowest taxes on gasoline in the nation. That can have at least one negative effect, according to AAA. "You can have cheap gas, but a few more potholes," said Lewis.

But from the look of things on Jersey highways on Friday, it seems that motorists are far more willing to accept the potholes in order to have the cheap gas.

The high traffic volume on New Jersey roads over the holiday weekend also has AAA reminding drivers to be cautious this Labor Day.