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Higher Prices, Worse Service: The Story of American Gas Stations

You won’t find many people excited about gas prices these days. With the national average hovering around $5 for a gallon of gasoline, many drivers are beyond frustrated. Gas station attendants often find themselves on the receiving end of the bad attitudes from enraged drivers.

If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you know that dealing with salty attitudes for eight or more hours can take its toll on you.

Today, we’ll look at American gas stations and how they keep drivers on the road. Let’s get started.

Why Are Some Gas Stations Better Than Others?

Individuals and families own nearly 60% of all gas stations. Many pour their lives into their gas stations and work diligently to ensure the best customer experience. Owners must ensure that fuel pumps work, the entire facility remains clean, and that employees interact positively with customers. Gas stations that do all of this separate themselves from those that don’t.

Some gas station owners know that drivers have little choice regarding keeping gas in their tanks. As a result, owners have minimal incentive to improve. Thus, customers often have negative experiences and bad employee interactions. For many of these owners, simply keeping their finances in the black is their only concern.

In addition to privately owned gas stations, large corporations make up the other percentage. These often have extensive infrastructures with multiple management layers overseeing them.

Corporate locations can be hit or miss with cleanliness and the customer experience. However, at least when customers want to complain, corporate offices will address them and hopefully improve the station.

Man refueling car at gas station
With gas prices rising, finding a good gas station is hard.

Who Decides the Price at Gas Stations?

Many factors go into the pricing of gas. These factors include the price of oil, taxes, and profit. Gas stations are businesses with bills to pay, and they must have some sort of profit to keep their lights on and pumps running. 

With privately-owned gas stations, the store owner controls the price you pay at the pump. However, corporate-owned gas stations will often set their prices by officials at their corporate headquarters.

However, most gas stations operate on razor-thin profit margins regarding fuel transactions. They typically only make $.05 to $.07 per gallon. Considering some states have $.30 to $.50 in gasoline taxes, it might be better for drivers to point their fingers elsewhere and away from the gas stations themselves. 

Pro Tip: We talked to a gas station owner and he told us his thoughts on gas prices increasing! What he said might surprise you!

How Can You Find Good Gas Stations?

You’ll likely find a good gas station if you’re familiar with an area. You may have a convenient, go-to station you regularly use. Positive interactions with employees and clean facilities likely keep you coming back. However, finding fuel stations in unfamiliar areas can be tricky.

However, you can do some research. Use Google Maps, Yelp, or GasBuddy to read reviews. You can avoid sketchy or unsafe locations, especially if traveling alone or at night. These apps will often locate stations near you and typically allow you to sort results by rating. 

But with fuel prices above $5 a gallon, reviews alone won’t save you much money. The cheapest stations may still break the bank. So how else can you save money at the pump?

Gas pump inserted into vehicle
Use apps to find the best places to fuel up.

Tips to Save Money and Make the Most of Every Gallon of Gas

With gas prices the way they are, you want to make the most out of every gallon. Here are a few tips for saving money and staying on the road. 

Follow Maintenance Schedule

To get the most out of every fill-up, you must keep your vehicle in good order. Following the maintenance schedule set by the manufacturer can help ensure your car runs efficiently. Inefficiencies typically result in a decline in fuel efficiency as well.

Keeping your vehicle’s maintenance on schedule can also help catch smaller issues before they become more extensive and costly. If you notice any changes in performance or strange noises, have a mechanic look at your vehicle immediately. Putting off check-ups until it gets worse or is more convenient will likely result in a larger issue. 

Check Your Tires

One of the best ways to maximize fuel efficiency is to check your tire pressure. Driving below the recommended tire pressure increases friction, damaging the tires and reducing fuel efficiency. The Department of Energy estimates that for every drop of 1 PSI in a vehicle’s wheels, drivers experience a 0.2% reduction in fuel efficiency.

Less than half a percent may not seem large, but it can add up if you drive many miles regularly. However, some drivers can experience a .6% to 3% increase in gas mileage. It only takes a few seconds to check your tire pressure, and you can maximize every drop of gasoline in your tank.

Avoid Non-Essential Trips

You may feel tempted to run to the store whenever you need something. However, if you don’t immediately need the item, don’t go. Create a shopping list the next time you go to the store for items you need. Your grocery trips may get a bit more expensive, but you can save money by avoiding wasteful trips.

You should also consider the cost of shopping online. Some items may have the same prices, or even cheaper, online than in your local store. If you use Amazon Prime, you can often have the items delivered for free directly to your door within a couple of days. Some locations even have same-day or next-day delivery options.

Slow Down

We live in a fast-paced society, and everybody is in a hurry. However, if you want to get the most out of the gas in your tank, you better slow down. According to the Department of Energy, recent research indicates that vehicles typically become inefficient quickly once they reach speeds above 50 miles per hour. The same study has found that for every five miles per hour that a vehicle drives over 50 miles per hour adds up to $0.18 more per gallon.

Man filling up SUV at Costco gas station.
Loyalty programs can help save you money at the fuel pump.

Use Loyalty Programs

Many gas stations and grocery stores offer loyalty programs with discounts on fuel. Some grocery stores with gas stations will offer discounts based on how much you spend on groceries. If you can stockpile your points, you can take a considerable amount off per gallon when you cash in your rewards.

Gas stations commonly have loyalty programs. These often provide an instant $0.03 or $0.10 per gallon off the posted price. Signing up for these memberships can be incredibly easy. We’ve signed up for some by punching in our phone number at the pump and getting an instant discount. Sure, we get a random text or two now and then from the gas station. However, it’s a small price to save a few bucks. 

Travel Light

Travel as light as possible if you want to maximize your fuel efficiency. According to the Department of Energy, for every 100 pounds of weight added to a vehicle, the vehicle’s fuel economy reduces by roughly 1%. You also need to consider aerodynamics when packing up for a trip. Large items mounted to a vehicle’s roof rack will create more wind resistance and reduce fuel economy. Some roof racks can reduce this by 10% to 25% when traveling at 65 to 75 miles per hour.

Download GasBuddy

Gas prices can vary quite a bit between gas stations. It can be surprising how drastically prices can differ at neighboring stations. We recommend all drivers download the GasBuddy app. This app makes it easy to find the cheapest gas near you and read reviews from other users. Sometimes it’s worth paying a few extra bucks when filling up your tank, especially if a cheap gas station is unsafe.

Pro Tip: Use our tips on how to use Gas Buddy to save you some money while on the road.

Are High Gas Prices Here to Stay?

Gas prices have fallen slightly in the past couple of weeks, slowly drifting further away from a national average of $5 per gallon. However, we’re still in the middle of the prime travel season with some unpredictability regarding oil prices. We expect it’ll eventually go back down, but who knows when. However, we recommend following these tips to make the most out of every fill-up.

What gas-saving tips do you use? Tell us in the comments!

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