Gasoline prices are lower for this time of year than they have been in recent memory. Consumers should be pocketing significant savings.
But are they? Gas price website GasBuddy surveyed consumers' fuel-purchasing habits and has concluded that consumers may be saving, but they are actually paying more than they should.
The biggest threats to consumers, the site claims, are procrastination, craving convenience, and being creatures of habit.
How can following long-established habits hurt? Gasbuddy found that an overwhelming majority of consumers – 76% – go to the same station to fill up on a regular basis. They do so because they believe it has the lowest price, but often it doesn't, and they don't bother to find out.
“Make sure you’re shopping smart and checking that your go-to fill-up spot is, in fact, the cheapest,” said Vera Gibbons, senior consumer analyst at GasBuddy. “You never know when a nearby station is running a promotion or may have changed its pricing strategy, so always double-check.”
Another money wasting habit is waiting until the gas gauge hits empty before filling up again. If you wait until you're running on fumes, price become less important. You just want to get some fuel in your tank, regardless of what it costs.
“According to our research, most people can save around 20 to 30 cents per gallon by shopping around for the cheapest station within a city. In some cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, D.C., the savings could be upwards of 70 cents per gallon,” Gibbons said.
But who takes the time to do that when the gas gauge needle is hovering over “E?”
Why didn't the motorist cross the road?
Other consumers are overpaying for fuel because they refuse to cross the road. The survey found 40% of respondents choose a gas station based on location, while 14% admit to choosing a station depending on how easy it is to get into.
Convenience also enters into the money-wasting equation when a station offers a cash discount but the consumer pays with plastic. Admittedly, it's a pain to go inside the station and pre-pay with cash for the gas. But those who do so might save up to 15 cents a gallon, Gibbons says.
“Paying with cash might be less convenient for those who only carry cards, but it’s a simple way to save some extra money,” she said.
Even so, the survey found 86% of consumers buy gasoline with a credit or debit card.
With gas prices historically low, some consumers are paying a little more for a premium grade of gasoline. Twelve percent of consumers in the survey admitted to doing that.
That's a big money-waster, Gibbons says. Unless a manufacturer specifically requires premium fuel, 87 octane will work just fine.