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Why drivers paying more for gas despite lower prices

Posted at 1:11 PM, Apr 05, 2017

Gas prices have fallen in recent months, but new findings show that drivers still may be spending more than they need to at the gas pump.

Nancy Spurry, a driver from Denver, Colorado, has written down her gas and mileage every time she's filled up since 2005.

"Here's one in 2015," Spurry says. "I put in 12.72 (gallons) and I paid $44. that was a lot more."

It's a habit from her work days that just stuck around.

"Here's 13.62 (gallons) and it was $44, but that was last September," Spurry says. "So they've been fairly consistent for me." 

Spurry is meticulous with her recordkeeping, but not so much about finding the lowest price. But experts say shopping around is worth it now more than ever.

"So many Americans are flushing money down the toilet," Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy says. "They think gas prices are cheap right now, and they are. But, you can pay even less."

DeHaan found that when gas prices are lower there is a bigger variance between prices in any given city.

In 2012, when the national average for a gallon of gas was $3.61, the price spread between stations was 95 cents.

In 2016, when the national average fell to $2.13 a gallon, the spread increased nearly 20 percent to $1.13 a gallon.

And experts say in bigger cities, the spread is even more pronounced.

"I'm based in Chicago," DeHaan says. "There were stations two blocks apart. One was charging $3.21, the other was $2.83."

Where is the price variation the worst? Washington D.C. takes the top spot, according to the report.

There's a difference of $1.21 a gallon between the most and least expensive stations in the nation's capital. That's a potential saving of about $63 a month.

San Francisco and Los Angeles come in second and third.

But according to some drivers, there's no time to shop around.

"It's something I want to get done quick so I just go to the closest place," said Ross Graves, a driver from Denver. "I don't spend a lot of time researching."

GasBuddy says drivers can comparison shop for gas online, just like consumers do for clothing or electronics. The company has a free app that shows prices at gas stations closest to the user.

"It may only sound like $.40," DeHaan says. "But when you are filling your tank every week that can add up to hundreds of dollars a year."