Driving a little to find cheaper gas may make sense

2013-10-20T00:00:00Z Driving a little to find cheaper gas may make senseBy Jeffrey A. Platt Special to The Arizona Republic Arizona Daily Star

Driving a little out of the way to buy cheaper gasoline can save Arizona motorists money if the fuel they purchase is at least 2 cents cheaper a gallon.

Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, analyzed the size of gas tanks in vehicles driven in this country. Based on his figures and current local gasoline prices, for every mile driven out of the way in search of cheaper fuel, Arizonans will save money if the gas they purchase is at least 2 cents a gallon cheaper.

If the gasoline is 5 cents cheaper per gallon and still only a mile away, the savings become substantial. At that cost, if a driver filled his or her tank twice a week, the annual savings would be about $60.

GasBuddy operates a well-known website and smartphone app containing a database of all the gas stations in an area and the current price they are charging. The website and app give drivers the ability to purchase the cheapest gas available in their current location, assuming they are willing to drive to the site of the best deal.

“At the end of the day, our objective is to keep more money in the pockets of motorists and not in the pump,” DeHaan said.

“When it comes down to it, every motorist is different,” he said. “Some may drive a quarter mile out of their way, some might not want to drive out of the way at all.”

According to DeHaan, the average American motorist drives a vehicle with a 17-gallon tank and travels about 23 miles on a gallon of gas. With the average cost of regular gasoline in the Phoenix area roughly $3.31 per gallon, that means the average vehicle spends about 14 cents on fuel for every mile it travels.

In other words, driving to and from a gas station 1 mile away costs 28 cents. But if the motorist is filling up a 17-gallon gas tank with fuel that’s 2 cents a gallon cheaper, the fuel bill will be 34 cents less, more than enough to cover the 28 cents spent.

DeHaan said one time, in Chicago, he used GasBuddy and was able to save nearly a dollar per gallon by driving 10 miles out of his way. His savings was over $13 on just that one trip.

And as the gas mileage on most vehicles continues to improve with every passing year, the rewards of driving in search of cheaper gas will only grow.

But there’s also the value of a motorist’s time to consider.

Sisley Hatch of Tempe said that she usually will fuel up while she is out doing other errands and has the extra five minutes to spare.

This helps her save money without the sacrifice of wasting her time.

“It honestly depends on how far away it is,” Hatch said of the decision to drive farther for fuel. “If it’s a five-minute drive, I’ll drive that extra five minutes, but I wouldn’t go 10 minutes out of the way.”

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