In an earlier post, Increased Gas Mileage …., I wrote about how a comment from my son had started my awareness of my driving habits and how I had used that awareness to change my driving habits and ending up increasing my gas mileage by 26%. I think that the comment would be called a defining moment because of the effect it had on me and the changes that it caused. To read the details on the methods I used, see the article Save Money on Gas – Increase Your Gas Mileage Up to 26%.
My father was always very aware of the price of gasoline. He knew the price of gas at every gas station within 10 miles of our house – at least that’s how it seemed to me when I was growing up.
While I also notice the price of gas at nearly every station that I drive past (I think there must be some kind of family gene involved), I don’t obsess on finding the absolute lowest price of gas when I fill up the tank. I’ve become familiar enough with the local prices that I know which nearby stations consistently sell gas at lower prices than others. There are two main stations that I will stop at and sometimes a third. All of these stations are on my regular route to and from the office and all tend to have their prices within a few cents of each other. Occasionally, when the price of gas is changing rapidly, one station will lag behind the other in raising or lowering prices. In those cases, if I notice on my way to/from work that one of the stations is temporarily $.03 to .04 lower than the others, then I will stop at that station for gas. Otherwise, I choose the most convenient one.
In contrast, there is a trio of gas stations on the intersection of CR 17 and US 20 that consistently sell gas for $.04 to $.09 per gallon higher than my three stations. I plan my routes and time my purchases so that I rarely buy gas from any of these stations.
Because I know from observation that the stations I use sell gasoline at good prices, I don’t find it worth it to spend time worrying about saving $.01 or even $.02 a gallon. Why should I? Even if my 15 gallon tank is on empty and I fill it up, I would only save $.15 to $.30 on my tank of gas. That tank will last me up to two weeks.
Another factor in finding a low price gas station is how many extra miles you must drive to get to the particular station. My car gets 24 mpg, so if gas is selling at $3.50 a gallon, every mile I drive costs $.15 in gas. I’d be making a mistake to drive 5 miles to save $.05 per gallon of gas because even if I filled up the tank, I’d save $.75 on the tank, while I’d spend an extra $.75 in gas alone to get there.
There are times, such as when you are going to be running errands in another part of town , or when you are traveling outside of your city, that it’s good to know the gas stations that have the lowest gas prices. The internet gives us some good tools for this.
Mapquest has a good site – gasprices.mapquest.com – that shows the prices of several selected gas stations in a given city or around a certain address. Just key in the city or address and mapquest will list many of the station’s gas prices, as well as marking their location on a map.
GasBuddy.com will give a list of gas stations and current prices, in order from highest to lowest. For example, when I keyed in Elkhart, Indiana, it shows that the burger Dairy station on Franklin St. has gas at $3.38 a gallon and the 7-11 on old US 20 has gas at $3.49 a gallon. GasBuddy seems to be a little more up to date, with most of the prices just 1 – 6 hours old.
Msn also has a comprehensive site for gas prices – autos.msn.com/everyday/gasstations.aspx – and is similar to Mapquest’s site, although I like the msn site layout better and it also seems to list more stations and prices in an easier layout. Like Mapquest, the Msn site displays a map with a marker showing each gas station and a side bar list of the stations and the latest reported price of gas per gallon. Msn also lists the prices of plus, premium, and diesel fuel.
GasPriceWatch.com had very outdated prices for my city, so it’s off my list, but I’m showing it here because perhaps it is updated more often for your area.
The federal government is even involved in listing gas prices and has a site run by the US Dept of Energy – www.fueleconomy.gov that gives many links to current gas prices, as well as articles and information on fuel economy.
Automotive.com has a currently updated site of gas prices that, for my city, were updated at least daily.
These sites will allow you to check gas prices from your computer, ipod, netbook, laptop or smart phone. Experiment to find out which one has the most accurate and current prices for your local stations. You can then find out which gas stations on your route consistently have the lowest prices and use those with confidence. Once you have your chosen station or stations, you can relax and just compare once in a while.
Then again, you may be like my father and enjoy knowing all the local gas prices. In that case, you’ve now got a nice list of gas price links and can check them as often as you like. After all, saving money while having fun is the Fat Dollar way.