"Average gasoline prices are moving up as we enter the new year, a trend that has held since 2008," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.
"We're starting 2012 about 20 cents per gallon higher than 2011, setting up an ugly year for motorists," he said.
The Los Angeles Times reported Friday the national average price of gas rose 29 percent in 2011 from Jan. 1 to the highest average of the year.
That jump took 89.5 cents a gallon out of consumers' wallets with the average price peaking at $3.965.
This year, "Somewhere between the Grammys and the Oscars, the gasoline market and perhaps the crude market will trend considerably higher," Oil Price Information Service analyst Tom Kloza wrote in an online posting.
Kloza said prices would rise as "international worries about a second Arab Spring will combine with domestic concerns about U.S. refinery maintenance and the closure of at least two critical East Coast refineries."
Analysts also point to increased oil exports and the thirst for oil in emerging nations, especially in South America, which is keeping supplies low and prices high.