There’s a common mistake drivers make when gas prices are cheap: We get lazy and fail to seek out the best deal.
A new study by GasBuddy shows when fuel prices fall, it can pay off more than ever to shop around.
When the cost of fuel is low, gas stations will vary more widely in the prices they advertise to drivers. This “spread” has recently been widest in cities like Washington, D.C. and San Francisco where the price difference between gas stations can be more than $1 per gallon.
Smart shoppers who take the time to research prices can save around $60 a month at the pump in these cities, the report says.
Gas prices have been relatively flat so far in 2017. As of Thursday morning, a gallon of regular unleaded gas costs an average of $2.305, according to AAA. That’s up from $2.049 at this time last year, but still low compared to even earlier years.
“We’re in a relative period of tranquility and affordability at the pump, and so the data suggests Americans are at particular risk right now of overspending on gasoline,” Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, said in a press release. “And we expect that trend to continue for some time.”
GasBuddy operates apps and websites to help consumers identify the cheapest gas in an area. For this particular study, the firm looked at the last seven years of gas prices, and measured the gap between the 5% least expensive stations and the 5% most expensive stations.
That gap was wider during times when gas prices were low, rather than when prices were high.