Monday, January 24, 2011

It's a Gas Gas Gas

If only there was reasonable pricing for gasoline. I'll get back to that. But I do need to address brand loyalty when it comes to filling up your car. Those who have it usually have brand loyalty for the wrong reasons.

Everybody is, justifiably, complaining about how much we are being gouged at the gas pump. Yet, many of those doing the complaining are standing there pumping gas at several cents higher per gallon than another brand has it for next door or right across the street.

We need to eliminate the "What's the difference at these prices?" mode. Chances are you drive the same routes during the week to work, school, shop, dine, visit family and friends, etc. Are you watching gas prices everywhere you go to keep track of which gas stations consistently have the lowest prices?

If not, you should be. You need to look at prices and apply it to your typical fill-up. For the sake of example, suppose you put in an average of 10 gallons on your weekly visit to the gas station.

You look across the street and now notice that the gas station over there is selling at 8 cents per gallon less. That would mean you are spending 80 cents MORE on this visit than you need to. If you do the math, you would find that this comes to over $41 MORE over the course of one year than you had to spend.

This is without using an SUV example of pumping 20 gallons per visit or paying ten cents more per gallon. You'd be overspending by more than $100 per year, and some people are doing just that.

Using either of the above examples, take the dollar amount (i.e. $41, $220) per week you could be overpaying. Next, look at the price of your typical fill-up under today's prices.

You'll find that you are probably wasting one entire fill-up over the course of the year while complaining about these prices.

In addition, one place where you live or work (or drive to) may be in a different county or state which, due to taxes, may have a lower average price. I know of several people who will drive up to 20 miles extra to take advantage of significant savings on a fill-up, but it has to make sense. There are areas where gas prices could vary by as much as 15 cents or more per gallon from one state to the next.

However, at these prices, the extra driving generally doesn't make sense. Your savings on a 15 gallon fill-up might only be about $2 - $3, but the extra 30 miles of driving take up on gallon (or more), which presently costs MORE than the attempted savings.

Believe it or not, my savings formula does not always mean that I automatically head for the lowest gas price in the area where I'm filling up. Fact is I very rarely do, and only use the "lesser brand" of gas as an indicator of if the price has gone up or down that day, and how close to that price I need to look for.

Most people don't believe me on this until they try it out. Many cars actually do perform better using certain brands of gasoline. But it is NOT one brand fits all. In a multi-car household, each car may have its own "best gas".

It's not only out of fear that the cheaper "off brand" gas isn't as strong and could impact the performance level of the vehicle. That is something to consider. I am among those who has had truly reliable auto mechanics show me how "cheap gas" has negatively impacted the car's performance. This is often another reason to avoid the "off brand", however. If you save it in gas money but spend it back and then some in repair and/or maintenance costs, you aren't really saving. This is a factor with the majority of vehicles.

When I purchase another car (I won't say new car because I have purchased a grand total of 3 "new" cars during the 40 years I have been driving.), I will try a few brands of gas, evaluate the performance, and then develop a brand loyalty which seems best for my car.

Then, it becomes a matter of finding the lowest priced (name of brand) station within the area(s) I buy gas at. Currently, gas is lower priced near where I live than where I work or where I go to visit family members, so I constantly monitor which of the 3 gas stations of that brand within 2 miles of home have the better price. Yes, it varies. I'll never understand why the same brand of gas in the same zip code can have up to a 3 cent per gallon variation, but it does so I keep tabs on it. Significantly, I have purchased from all 3 of those gas stations within the past 2 months as the prices between them all varies. One of them tends to have the lowest of the 3 the most, but not always. (I won't say which brand since I can't endorse any at these prices.)

This brand has generally been available within 2 or 3 cents of the lowball brand, and even I have no trouble with an additional 25 or 30 cents per purchase, since the car will make up for it on maintenance costs.

The brand I generally used was arrived at by testing a few brands for mileage in the car I currently own. I always zero out the trip odometer when I fill up so that I can better gauge the distance and mileage on a couple of tanks and take it from there.

Comparing brands of gas is easier than you think. Ideally, you should rotate among those you would consider in the early going. The best comparison is testing brands under the same driving conditions.

There are some people who think I'm being ridiculous about this and that "all name brand gas is the same". But they were not with me years ago when I made a one day road trip from Chicago to Detroit (about 300 miles each way). I made it to my Detroit area destination and part of the way back to Chicago on one tank of gas. Being down to empty, I filled up with at a Shell station for most of my return trip home. Imagine my disgust when I had to stop for gas in order to make it home (according to the number of gallons I took, I knew that for a fact) on the same trip!

Months later, I ran out of gas on another road trip, on which I had used Shell purchased in a different state. Needless to say, that car and others since never used Shell. I have put Shell in the car I have now, but it is no longer among the lower priced brands in my area.

Yet, if I had not been keeping track of brands, mileage, and pricing, I might still be among those people spending MORE per gallon and getting way less performance out of the car, thus costing me even more money at the gas pump.

Back to these unreasonable gas prices. There is nothing we can do but complain, and so far that hasn't helped, even with

Here is a question for us all to ask politicians, especially the ones who urge us all to "Buy American". I like to "Buy American" whenever the price and quality merit. So why is it that when the foreign oil companies jack up the prices even more for no reason that the American refineries must follow?

Let our politicians know that if they made sure that refined American oil and gas prices were at half of the price the foreign oil companies are charging THEN we would "Buy American". Ask them what they will do to make this happen for us.

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