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Bargain-seeking Americans driving to Mexico to buy cheap gas

U.S.-Mexico border in Caseta

In this photo taken April 7, 2010, soldiers guard near the U.S.-Mexico border in Caseta border town, Valle de Juarez, northern Mexico. Hundreds of families are fleeing the cotton-farming towns of the Juarez Valley, a stretch of border 50 miles east of Ciudad Juarez. In a new strategy, Mexican drug cartels seeking to minimize interference with their operations are using terror to empty the entire area. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

LOS ANGELES -- As gas prices skyrocket, American drivers are looking south of the border for an alternative to ease the pain at the pump.

But there's growing concern that bargain-seekers could be putting their lives at risk, with the US State Department issuing travel alerts because of the dangers of encountering drug cartel violence in Mexico.

The national average for a gallon of gas is hovering around $3.80 across the US -- and is $4.35 in California, according to AAA. Some analysts think it will keep climbing as the US heads into summer.

The price for a gallon of gas in Mexico is around $1.50 less.

"It just goes to show how much Americans believe in low gas prices and how far they're willing to go," said Patrick Dehaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.

The Mexican government regulates prices, leading to cheaper fuel.

"The economy relies on cheaper gasoline, because residents can't afford the higher cost," Dehaan said.

But while the price may be right for some -- the same can't always be said about how good the product is.

"There may be an unknown quality of the gasoline that they're purchasing in Mexico, and they likely would void the warranty of their vehicles' engines," Dehaan said.

That's not going to stop some drivers who say if prices keep rising, Mexico is one way to help get by.

"For $5 down here, and cheaper down there -- like around $2 a gallon -- I would go down there," said truck driver David Flores.

But Elizabeth Perdoza, a motorist from El Paso, Texas, said she wouldn't risk it.

"I do work with a lot of people who do go across the border for gas and other stuff, but they're risking their lives. There's no way I would do it," she said.

There's no way to really track how many American drivers are going to Mexico for fuel -- but analysts at GasBuddy.com estimate it's in the thousands.