Poor Refueling Decisions Cost Consumers Money: GasBuddy

Despite heightened price-consciousness, many drivers don’t pick lowest-price gas
GasBuddy price comparison
Image: GasBuddy

When gas prices soared to over $5 per gallon in many areas of the country in 2022, three out of four drivers became more price conscious about the gasoline they purchased, according to consumer fuel-price app provider GasBuddy. But many still didn’t purchase the lowest-price gas, the company said.

The company’s annual Pump Habits study suggests despite consumers’ efforts to save money, many paid too much last year because they didn’t comparison shop.

COVID-19 spurred a decline in global refining capacity and a rise in gas prices to $5 in some markets last June. This led to the Biden administration’s request for a federal gas-tax holiday. President Joe Biden also asked states to reduce gas taxes to provide immediate relief to consumers and help to keep inflation in check. 

Gas prices per gallon were about 30-cents higher than the prior year for Thanksgiving, but didn’t affect holiday travel, GasBuddy said at the time.

The higher prices weren't enough to encourage drivers to plan ahead and use a price-comparison app, according to the Pump Habits study.

About 79% of drivers failed to buy gas at the lowest-priced station in an area and ended up driving by a lower-priced station immediately after purchasing fuel, according to GasBuddy. By using a price-comparison mobile app, drivers often avoid this mistake. The percentage of consumers who overpaid by not shopping around rose 4% in 2022 from the previous year, GasBuddy said.

Drivers willing to drive farther to refuel at a lower-priced gas station can save as much as 20 cents to 50 cents per gallon, GasBuddy said. About 52% of Americans said they were “somewhat willing” to do this, the company said.

But many consumers wait too long to be able to drive to the lowest-price station and pull into the nearest gas station on empty. GasBuddy said 64% of Americans wait until their gas light illuminates before pulling into a station, reducing the likelihood of obtaining the best price. They can avoid this problem by refueling before their gas gauge falls below one-quarter of a tank.

“Often, filling your tank is an afterthought, which robs you of hundreds of dollars per year. Motorists should get in the habit of picking a price, not picking a station,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.

Where gas prices are headed is the subject of debate, but some experts have predicted "curveballs" in the price of fuel this year.

The company said its GasBuddy app, downloaded  over 100 million times from the App Store, provides real-time gas prices at more than 150,000 locations and offers cash-back rewards with brand partners. Its Pay with GasBuddy debit card offers consumers cents-off-per-gallon discounts at most gas stations and can be used with other loyalty programs.

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