According to the Department of Energy, the average U.S. household will pay $700 more for gasoline this year than it did in 2010.

In a weekly review of the oil market, the department's Energy Information Administration noted that prices will rise at least 10 cents more over the current national average of $3.50 a gallon, due to the lag in wholesale price rises reaching the pump.

It also projected that peak gas prices, which historically occur over the summer, will reach $3.71 a gallon. That's a full dollar higher than the average price at the same time last year.

And the DoE says the chance that gas prices will soar above $4 a gallon this year is higher (25 percent) than the likelihood they'll fall below $3 (10 percent).

2011 Toyota Prius

2011 Toyota Prius

The current price rise is driven by uncertainty over the impact of political unrest in several oil-producing countries, most notably Libya.

Consumer interest in fuel-efficient cars, smaller models, and hybrids and clean diesels has risen, and more 40-mpg-rated cars are available in the U.S. market now than ever before.

(With a combined EPA rating of 50 mpg, the 2011 Toyota Prius hybrid remains the most fuel-efficient car sold in the U.S. today that doesn't plug in.)

But some analysts suggest that buyers not pay too much attention to gasoline prices.

The argument goes like this: You can't predict what will happen to oil prices, and buyers run the risk of overreacting and getting a smaller or a different kind of car than the one you really want.

But what do you think? Will the present rise in the cost of gas lead you to buy a different car than the one you might otherwise have gotten?

Tell us what you think in the Comments below.



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