Gas Price Differences Frustrating Mystery for SoCal Drivers - NBC Southern California
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Gas Price Differences Frustrating Mystery for SoCal Drivers

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    Though gas prices have fallen to the lowest level in four years, some consumers see their stations charging unreasonable amounts. Randy Mac reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. (Published Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014)

    Gas prices may be at their lowest in four years, but that doesn't mean Southern California drivers find bargains every time they fill up their tanks.

    Fuel prices can differ by as much as $1.50 per gallon within a 1-mile radius, creating confusion for customers who've come to expect a good deal at the pump.

    KNBC4 I-Team Consumer Investigator Randy Mac found one station in North Hollywood charging $4.45 for a gallon of unleaded, while just a few blocks away, a station was selling the same product for $2.85.

    So why are station owners charging more than others?

    "Because they can, brother, just because they can!" Burbank driver Victor Gutierrez told Mac.

    But it's not that simple.

    "Individual people are owning these stations, so they can put up whatever price they want," said Allison Mac (no relation), a petroleum analyst with Gasbuddy.com, a website and app that helps users locate the most affordable fuel.

    Allison Mac says just like real estate prices, gas prices fluctuate block to block, city to city, based on one thing.

    "Location, location, location," she explained.

    Where a gas station is located impacts rent and overhead, and station owners often pass the added expense on to their customers.

    Occupying space near a freeway ramp lets them get away with charging more as well, since drivers are often in a hurry to get home, or coming off the exit with a near-empty tank.

    "I pay whatever their price is because my time is very important and I work and I'm a creature of habit," driver Andrea DeGraff said, as she fueled up at one of the pricier gas stations in Burbank.

    But being in a hurry doesn't mean you can't find a bargain, even if you're already on the road. Smartphone apps such as Gasbuddy, as well as the new app from the Automobile Association of America, can pinpoint the cheapest gas in your area using GPS technology.

    If you don't have the app, just try driving a few miles away from the freeway: that could be enough to save you a few dollars next time you need to top off your tank.

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