CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With gas prices remaining high, many drivers are paying extra attention to cost fluctuations at the pump. Some might have noticed wide differences in prices from city to city, even from one side of the street to the other.
In North Carolina, the average cost of a gallon of regular gas was around $3.95 Monday, but fuel-focused tech company GasBuddy was reporting some Charlotte-area stations had gas priced around $0.50 lower.
Is it normal to see a spread in gas prices within a state or even a locality?
Yes, it is normal to see a spread in gas prices from station to station, and the difference can be relatively large.
"Usually the state difference between bottom and top is somewhere around 80 cents to $1 a gallon," De Haan said. "In a city like Charlotte, it's usually 50 to 70 cents a gallon -- the difference between the highs and lows."
The EIA writes that a few factors determine price at the pump, including federal, state and local taxes and even the cost of doing business for that particular station. Factors in that cost might be employee salaries, rent, and state and local fees.
While a spread in prices might be normal, De Haan notes that the Ukraine crisis might be making the price differences more pronounced right now, since wilder fluctuations in oil prices mean stations could be buying their supplies at different price points, depending on the day.
"This time around, there's almost no stability, and volatility is king, and that's resulting in a hotspot of low prices and high prices," De Haan said.
De Haan said the stations then pass along the cost to the consumer, but some could do so to differing degrees, depending on the demographics of the neighborhood and the type of gas station.
"People that are making more money are less price-sensitive, and so stations will charge a little bit more knowing that those people aren't going to be shopping around," De Haan said. "Your independent stations, the ones you may not have heard of, they may sell a little bit cheaper. Wholesale clubs sell at a very low price to get you to go into their stores."
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