Online Gas Price Sites – Do They Really Save You Money?

With the national average price of gasoline holding steady above $4 per gallon, it seems as if more and more people are using online gas price sites like and to help determine where they’re going to go to fill up. While there’s certainly plenty of satisfaction in knowing you’ve picked up the cheapest gas in the area, is it possible that these sites are actually causing you to spend more on gas even if you’re paying less at the pump?

Confused? Let me give you the following example:

You drive a car that gets, on average, 20 miles per gallon and has a 10 gallon tank. Before leaving your house to fill up the car, you check out and see that the gas station closest to your house, which is only a mile away, is selling regular unleaded gas for $4.15 per gallon; however, another station that’s only six miles from your house is selling regular unleaded gas for $4.00 per gallon.

Certainly, it would be a no brainer to go to the $4 per gallon station. After all, assuming you have to fill up all 10 gallons, you’re going to save yourself a whopping $1.50:

$4.15 – $4.00 = 15 cent savings per gallon x 10 gallons = $1.50 savings

Now, if this is where the analysis stopped, you’d probably be feeling pretty good about your decision to go to the farther away station. I mean, $1.50 doesn’t seem like much, but you’d much rather have it in your account than hand it over to the gas station clerk, right?

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, this isn’t where the analysis stops, so let’s continue:

At 20 mpg, you’re burning 1/20th of a gallon of gas for every mile you drive.

1/20 x 2 miles (close station) = 1/10th of a gallon of gas used for the round trip.

1/20 x 12 miles (farther station) = 3/5ths of a gallon used for the round trip.

$4.15 x 1/10 = 41.5 cents in burned fuel to go to and from the closer/more expensive gas station.

$4.00 x 3/5 = $2.40 in burned fuel to go to and from the farther/less expensive gas station.

So, by going to the farther away gas station, here’s what your net savings actually ends up being:

$1.50 + $.415 – $2.40 = -$.485.

By driving out of your way to save 15 cents per gallon of gasoline, you actually end up being about 50 cents in the hole. Again, I know these numbers don’t seem like much, but wouldn’t you rather keep your money? Besides, over time, ever little bit adds up.

It’s probably unlikely that you’ll do this sort of analysis before you decide where to purchase your next tank of gas, however, it is something that you should probably keep in mind. Long story short, unless you’re going to save a significant amount on each gallon of gas, or you need to fill up a mammoth tank, its probably not worth it to go out of your way to purchase gas.


  1. Well if you live in a small town like I do, it doesn’t matter. Also, if the gas station in on your way somewhere, it won’t make a difference either. This is calculated based on if you left from your home, went to the gas station, and then went directly home.

  2. Is this actually news to somebody? Seriously?

  3. Lincoln Paradox says

    Online gas sites are helpful for travel. If you’re already traveling across country, or even across state, it might make sense to fill up in the next town if gas is 5-10 cents cheaper per gallon.

  4. Good analysis. When people drive out of their way to save a few cents on gas, it shows that they don’t give a care about the environment, just their pocketbooks.


  5. It’s more of a psychological thing. Most people don’t take into account the fact that they might burn more gas than they save. In reply to @Sean, sadly to some people this may be a revelation!

    I was just checking a few minutes ago and all the gas stations in my area are within $.01 of each other, so it wouldn’t be worth it anyway!

  6. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  7. Sign: fxnmz Hello!!! nuhpp and 729bgtprpvuct and 3280 : I like your blog. cool post!


  1. Are gas price sites causing you to spend MORE on gas? |

    \r\nWhile it's awesome to save 10 cents on a gallon of gas, if you've got to drive 1

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