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More Americans Overpay at the Pump When Gas Prices are Low, GasBuddy Study Reveals


 D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles top list as cities
where drivers are most likely to spend more than they should

Smart shoppers in key metros can save more than $60 per month on fill-ups

Today our GasBuddy analyst team released a new study that found that when gas prices are less expensive, there is a higher chance for consumers to overpay for gas.

The phenomenon is uniquely caused during low-price cycles because during those times there is a greater variance — “spread” in industry parlance — in gas prices in any given city.

“We’re in a relative period of tranquility and affordability at the pump, and so the data suggests Americans are at particular risk right now of overspending on gasoline,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “And we expect that trend to continue for some time.”


GasBuddy looked at the last seven years worth of gas price data. In 2012, when the national average price was at a record breaking $3.61 per gallon, the price spread between the most expensive 5 percent and the least expensive 5 percent of stations was only 95 cents. Compared to 2016, when the national average fell to $2.13 per gallon, the spread increased nearly 20 percent to $1.13 per gallon.


As gas prices are seeing an unseasonable drop for this time of year, GasBuddy looked at the current price spread in the largest U.S metro markets. The report found that gas price variation is greatest in Washington D.C, where a whopping $1.21 per gallon is separating the most expensive and least expensive stations. For smart shoppers, that’s a potential savings of about $63 per month. San Francisco and Los Angeles came in second and third on the list, where consumers can potentially spend an extra $1 per gallon.

“Spreads can vary based on factors like local competition and geographic location,” said DeHaan. “We noticed some commonalities amongst the cities ranked the highest: they tend to be sprawling with a major connecting highway running through them. Additionally, they have the presence of a large warehouse retailer in the market. The good news for drivers in these areas is that there are opportunities to save money if you know where to look and choose to shop wisely.”

Examples of the wide price spread in D.C. (left) and Los Angeles (right). Screenshot taken from GasBuddy app on March 28, 2017.