Costco, Arco Low-Price Leaders

Brands more aggressive in 2013, says GasBuddy annual fuel price ranking

Costco Gas Station

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. -- The lowest-priced gasoline brands are aggressive, and they're getting even more so.

That's the gist of latest ranking of the top 25 most competitive gasoline brands in the United States by GasBuddy, a provider of mobile fuel price apps and pricing analysis. To compile its annual list, GasBuddy sorts through around 35 million gasoline prices, comparing brands' pump offering by ZIP code to the average price of their local competitors. It then tabulates the results and rates each brand by the average discount it delivered versus the average pump prices in its competitive area.

For the second year in a row, warehouse club chain Costco Wholesale Corp. topped the national ranking, with an average 2013 discount of 14 cents per gallon compared to its competitors. And the chain keeps getting more aggressive: According to GasBuddy, that discount was almost 10% greater than the Costco's brand's 2012 discount.

In second place, Tesoro Corp.'s Arco brand delivered an average daily discount of 13.5 cents per gallon--8.5% greater than the price differential in 2012, according to GasBuddy.

Supermarket and mass merchandiser fuel brands dominated the top 10, such as The Kroger Co.'s Fred Meyer chain, which offered a discount of more than 10 cents per gallon. Western supermarket chain Smith's Food & Drug Centers Inc.'s Smith's brand gave a 6.2-cent-per-gallon discount. These brands were followed by Safeway, Stop & Shop, Kroger, H-E-B and Fry's Food Stores, with average 2013 discounts of more than four cents per gallon.

Two more big-box operators--Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale Club--ranked fifth and sixth in the Top 25, offering discounts of 10.1 and 9.3 cents per gallon, respectively. Kroger's Quik Stop convenience store division ranked third most aggressive, pricing 12.5 cents per gallon below competitors, according to GasBuddy.

Other c-store brands in the Top 25 included USA Petroleum, Maverik, Murphy USA, Delta, Jet-Pep, Raceway, Murphy Express, Kwik Shop, RaceTrac, E-Z Mart and Wawa. Travel-center brands Flying J and Pilot, both owned by Pilot Flying J, also made the list.

GasBuddy also ranked the top five brands by state. The biggest price differentials could be seen in California, with discounts of nearly 17 to 16 cents per gallon offered by brands such as Costco, Kroger's Food 4 Less and Pilot.

Some more on the methodology of the Top 25: GasBuddy compared the daily average of every chain in the United States by ZIP code to the average of the other stations in that ZIP code. It calculated a difference each day for each ZIP code, and rolled these figures up to the country and each state for the entire year. If a retailer is in an area where most stores do not match their prices, they will see a larger differential. If a retailer is in a very competitive area, with stations pricing very closely to one another, that retailer will show a smaller differential. To make the national Top 25, a retailer must have 50 stores or more; to rank in the state, a retailer must have at least 10 sites.

To see the full rankings, click here.