With gas prices soaring to new record highs in California, many drivers will naturally search for the cheapest options to fill up.
Websites like GasBuddy help track this information. However, is it really worth driving across town, perhaps dozens of miles away, just to save money on gasoline?
It depends on a number of factors. Among them: how much gas your tank holds, your fuel economy, how much you will save, and how far you have to drive.
Let’s say your car’s tank holds 18 gallons of gasoline, your fuel economy is 22 miles per gallon, and your local gas station charges $6.30 for a gallon of regular unleaded.
It costs you around $113 to fill up.
Is it worth driving -for the sake of simplicity- 22 miles to a suburb and back (44 miles total) to fill up on gasoline that is $5.30/gallon?
At $5.30/gallon you would pay around $95 for a full tank, but you lose two gallons of gasoline driving back and forth. You would save $18 on the tank but burn $10-11 in gasoline getting to and from the cheaper gas station.
Maybe that’s worth the 7-8 bucks in net savings. Maybe not.
Now, let’s assume you drive a large SUV with a 28-gallon gas tank, and your fuel economy is 17 miles to the gallon.
At $6.30/gallon, it costs you around $176 to fill your tank.
At $5.30/gallon, it costs $148 to fill up – so you save $28 by driving to the other station.
That 44-mile round trip will consume about 2.6 gallons of gasoline (again, at 17 miles to the gallon), which costs you around $13.75.
Your net savings is $14.25 – more significant than with the smaller vehicle.
Those are just two of many possible scenarios. Ultimately, it comes down to distance, price, scale, and how much your time is worth in deciding whether to drive a substantial distance for cheaper gas.
Of course, if we’re talking about driving 2-3 miles out of your way to get to significantly cheaper gas, that’s a no-brainer.