Americans Paid Less for Gasoline in First-Quarter 2013

Honolulu highest, Casper, Wyo., lowest, says GasBuddy

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. -- U.S. consumers saw gasoline prices steam to a record average price in February, but the motor fuel market cooled considerably in March. Contrary to public perception, average first-quarter 2013 gasoline prices averaged below 2012 numbers, according to GasBuddy.

In fact, Americans paid about 30 cents per gallon less for gasoline in the most recent Easter weekend than they paid over the same period in 2012. Gasoline prices averaged just over $3.64 per gallon on Good Friday and may dip further in coming days. Consumers paid just over $3.93 per gallon on Easter weekend last year. GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan estimates that each penny per gallon translates into about $3.6 million per day in cost differences based on typical demand numbers; therefore, consumers are saving about $108 million each day when current costs are compared to last year.

The average first quarter 2013 price, compiled by GasBuddy, was $3.548 per gallon, compared with a $3.584-per-gallon level in first-quarter 2012. As recently as 2009, the first-quarter gasoline price averaged under $1.90 per gallon, so these are still stiff numbers when compared with 21st-century historical values. Ten years ago, U.S. gasoline prices averaged under $1.59 per gallon for the same period.

GasBuddy ranked 363 distinct Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), and found two U.S. markets that actually averaged less than $3 per gallon during the entire first quarter. Motorists in Casper and Cheyenne, Wyo., found an average first-quarter 2013 price of $2.87 per gallon and $2.955 per gallon, respectively, down about 16 cents per gallon from last year. The Rocky Mountain region was the most attractively priced area of the country, thanks in part to relatively cheap North American crude availability for refiners.

In all, 300 MSAs saw cheaper first-quarter prices for gasoline than in 2012, with two MSAs showing no statistically significant change. More expensive markets in 2013 included locations in Vermont, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. The most expensive market in the country was the Honolulu area, but the outright price of $4.157 per gallon this year was just three cents per gallon above the 2012 number.

Highest prices were generally witnessed along the New England coastline as well as Florida, California and the Pacific Northwest and the cheapest prices were in the Rockies and Great Plains.

Diversity in gasoline pricing approached record levels, said GasBuddy, which estimated that a discriminating shopper could save an average $1.13 per gallon in Washington, D.C., for example. Other markets that saw huge differences between best prices and the top of the market included California, where motorists could slash costs between 50 cents per gallon to as much as $1 per gallon if they fueled based on the cheapest price available.

Despite the recent downtrend, GasBuddy said that it is reluctant to say that motorists have seen the peak pricing level for gasoline in 2013. Hot spots that could see local gasoline price spikes include Great Lakes states and Northeastern metropolitan areas, for example. Prices could swing dramatically in the Heartland thanks to extensive spring maintenance for Midwestern refineries, and the East Coast could be affected by sagging foreign imports of gasoline.

Top 10 Most Expensive Markets in First-Quarter 2013

  1. Honolulu, HI, $4.157.
  2. San Luis Obispo-Atascadero, CA, $4.049.
  3. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA, $4.033.
  4. Santa Barbara-Santa Maria, CA, $4.029.
  5. Ventura, CA, $4.020.
  6. Orange County, CA, $4.013.
  7. San Diego, CA, $4.002.
  8. Riverside-San Bernardino, CA, $3.993.
  9. San Francisco, CA, $3.970.
  10. New York, NY, $3.968.

Top 10 Least Expensive Markets in First-Quarter 2013

  1. Casper, WY, $2.873.
  2. Cheyenne, WY, $2.955.
  3. Rapid City, SD, $3.054.
  4. Great Falls, MT, $3.081.
  5. Missoula, MT, $3.113.
  6. Billings, MT, $3.116.
  7. Salt Lake City-Ogden, UT, $3.130.
  8. Provo-Orem, UT, $3.134.
  9. Albuquerque, NM, $3.151.
  10. Santa Fe, NM, $3.162.

Top 10 Largest Increase or Smallest Decrease from First-Quarter 2012

  1. Pueblo, CO, $0.054 (1.7%).
  2. Utica-Rome, NY, $0.054 (1.4%).
  3. Greeley, CO, $0.053 (1.7%).
  4. Burlington, VT, $0.053 (1.4%).
  5. Rochester, NY, $0.053 (1.4%).
  6. Barnstable-Yarmouth, MA, $0.050 (1.4%).
  7. Jamestown, NY, $0.050 (1.3%).
  8. Fort Collins-Loveland, CO, $0.048 (1.5%).
  9. Denver, CO, $0.048 (1.5%).
  10. Sharon, PA, $0.045 (1.2%).

Top 10 Largest Decrease or Smallest Increase from First-Quarter 2012

  1. Anchorage, AK, -$0.243 (-6.2%).
  2. Rapid City, SD, -$0.239 (-7.3%).
  3. Tucson, AZ, -$0.215 (-6.3%).
  4. Richland-Kennewick-Pasco, WA, -$0.194 (-5.5%).
  5. Las Vegas, NV, -$0.187 (-5.2%).
  6. Medford-Ashland, OR, -$0.187 (-4.9%).
  7. Modesto, CA, -$0.168 -4.3%).
  8. Portland-Vancouver, OR-WA (OR Only), -$0.166 (-4.5%).
  9. Spokane, WA, -$0.163 (-4.8%)
  10. El Paso, TX, -$0.163 (-4.8%).

Top 10 Markets with Largest Daily Range Between Highest 1% of Sites and Lowest 1% Sites

  1. Washington, DC (DC Only)  $1.138.
  2. Riverside-San Bernardino, CA $1.094.
  3. San Francisco, CA, $0.998.
  4. Flagstaff, AZ, $0.954.
  5. New York, NY, $0.923.
  6. Santa Barbara, CA, $0.916.
  7. Salinas, CA, $0.909.
  8. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA, $0.889.
  9. San Diego, CA, $0.874.
  10. Bakersfield, CA, $0.868.

Top 10 Markets with Smallest Daily Range Between Highest 1% of Sites and Lowest 1% Sites

  1. La Crosse, WI (WI Only) , $0.032.
  2. La Crosse, WI (MN Only), $0.079.
  3. Green Bay, WI, $0.090.
  4. Great Falls, MT, $0.107.
  5. Eau Claire, WI, $0.109.
  6. Altoona, PA, $0.119.
  7. Sheboygan, WI, $0.123.
  8. Wausau, WI, $0.131.
  9. Duluth-Superior, WI (WI Only), $0.134.
  10. Appleton-Oshkosh, WI, $0.136.

Brooklyn Park, Minn.-based GasBuddy is a consumer-posted retail gasoline price web service covering more than 140,000 gas stations in the United States and Canada. In addition, GasBuddy offers a free smartphone app which has been downloaded more than 25 million times to help motorists find the lowest gasoline prices in their area. It is a subsidiary of Gaithersburg, Md.-based Oil Price Information Service (OPIS).