Best sources for high, low and average gasoline prices
When you’re looking for the best prices for gasoline, it helps to be in a well known metropolitan area. If you live in a very small town or in rural Alaska, it can be nearly impossible.
Here are a few options, including one that had to be created with the help of Google Maps when a senator from Alaska realized that no one knew about the staggering prices some of his constituents were paying.
Energy Information Administration’s Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update. Pros: federal government’s official record of average prices; rich historical database dating to 1990; excellent for spotting long-term trends. Cons: average prices only for a limited number of very large cities; comes out only once a week, on Mondays.
AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. Pros: comprehensive and daily averages compiled from more than 100,000 retail outlets in the U.S.; includes average for most of each state’s major metropolitan areas. Gives travelers a good sense of what they will face at their destinations. Cons: Because they are averages only, it’s best for knowing when you’re driving past a station with a really good deal, or a pump price gouge palace. No information for smaller towns.
The Energy Department’s fueleconomy.gov site lists a few more options. You’ll see them when you click on the individual states.
One of the sources it cites is GasBuddy.com, which uses a small army of smartphone app armed volunteers nationwide to list the best and worst prices they see on their daily drives and activities. Pros: good source if you want to know the best deals; lists individual service stations; let’s you know what stations are best to avoid. Cons: depends on what the app users see; still misses a lot of small villages and remote rual areas.
Another listed by the Energy Department is automotive.com, which is a new and used vehicle sales company. Pros: plug in your ZIP Code, like 90012, near the Los Angeles Times, and you’ll find several nearby stations listed, including one identified as “lowest price.” Today, it’s the Shell at 1317 E. Washington Blvd., at $4.259 for a gallon of regular. Cons: lots, and lots, and lots, of vehicle ads.
Also listed is gasprices.mapquest.com. Pros: uses its map system to display a range of prices in the area you are interested in, including the best and worst price. Cons: not so great if you are far from the locations listed.
But no one had a tougher time finding out where to go than rural Alaskans, according to U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, who knew that his constituents were sometimes paying as much as $8 or more for a gallon of gasoline because they lived in very isolated parts of the state.
Begich had his own Gas Prices in Alaska site erected last year, which is still in use, although his constituents (or his staff) aren’t exactly following through on keeping the site up to date. As a resource, it’s more of a listing of how bad things up there can be. One example that stands out: Anaktuvuk Pass, a little place on the North Slope of the state. In May 2011, a service station there was selling a gallon of regular gasoline for $9.20.
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