A few weeks ago, my Aunt sent along an email that warned about mis-calibrated gas pumps. The email was adamant that pumps were overcharging for gasoline because the total amount didn’t really match up to the price times the number of gallons.
My Gasoline Ripoff Non-Scientific Test.
Two weeks ago, I took a car trip across the width of Kansas on I70 and into Colorado (to Denver). Since this warning was fresh in my mind, I decided to test it. As I sailed across the prairie, stopping at station after station, I kept my receipts and tracked the price per gallon and gallons purchased. Since I was alone, I didn’t linger to figure out the total after pumping the gas, but just stuffed the receipt in my purse for a later calculation.
I pay pre-pay with cash and so request a dollar amount instead of a specific number of gallons. Then I set the pump handle and let the pump decide when to quit.
Here were my results:
|Price Per Gal||# Gallons||Total Price||Actual Price||Difference|
Was I ripped off at the gas pump?
Well, if you call paying 20 cents more on total purchases of almost $145 dollars being ripped off, then yes. But I don’t. This is probably within some legal margin of error.
Aren’t there regulations governing how this stuff works?
Yes, but the states are in control of inspecting the gas stations and pumps to make sure they are in compliance.
According to CBS News there is wide variance in how the pumps are inspected and how often it happens. Apparently some states have a shortage of pump inspectors.
Even if the pumps are inspected and do pass the inspection, you may still not get exactly what you paid for (as happened to me). There is a margin of allowable error in the calibrations, according to law.
CBS reported that: “So a high-volume station that routinely sells a little less than a gallon could rake in around $50,000 a year extra – for gas you never get.”
So, how can you avoid being ripped off at the gas pump?
Check Your Total
When you get gas, make sure that the price per gallon times the number of gallons is very close to the total charged.
If it isn’t, you can try talking to the gas station clerk or manager. You can also complain to the state agency responsible for inspecting the pumps to make sure they are correctly calibrated. In a lot of states, this is the weights and measures department.
You can also vote with your feet (or in this case your car tires) and go somewhere else.
Fill Up On a Cool Day
If you fill up on a hot day, you may get less than you paid for. According to Consumer Watchdog, that is because gasoline expands when hot, yet the pumps (most of which do not take temperature into consideration) do not change the amount of gasoline pumped, so you get expanded gasoline in your tank, which gives you fewer miles to the gallon.
Watch For Higher Price Per Gallon If You Pay With Credit
Some stations charge more for using credit than if you pay with cash.
Beware of Misleading Advertising
In Kansas and in Colorado, I encountered stations that advertised with big interstate signs that unleaded was a certain price. When I pulled into the pump, I found that the advertised price was for 85 octane gas, not the 87 that I usually get for the ‘unleaded’ price in my home state.
Use The Internet to Find the Lowest Prices in the Area
If you have the luxury of surfing to find the low price, our wonderful internet can help you find the best price in your area.
Here are a few sites that can help:
Gas Price Watch
What tips do you have to avoid being ripped off at the gas pump?