Why are gas prices different everywhere?

Why are gas prices different everywhere?

Gas pricing map provided by GasBuddy.com

Normally around holiday times, you see major media outlets talking about the price of gas and whether or not it is going up. We all know prices rise quickly because some Middle Eastern prince has a cold, but prices drop very, very, very slowly in comparison to how quickly they shoot up.

Over the last few months the price of gas has been slowly dropping. Currently, the national average for a gallon of regular gas is $2.447 and $3.042 for premium. While they are similar to the rates last year at this time, they are less ($2.755 and $3.226 respectively) than they were a month ago.

However, a quick drive around these parts will give you a varied price gap. The three major gas stations on Third Street in Ayden are all within 2 cents of each other at any given time, hovering around $2.45 right now. Travel down to Maury and the town's only gas station, is selling gas for $2.59.

Heading into Kinston? The Shell gas station off N.C. 58 is selling it for $2.46 a gallon while most of the others in the city are about 10 cents cheaper. The Handy Mart just past the U.S. 70 Bypass near La Grange is selling gas for $2.19 a gallon, leading up to Goldsboro where many stations are around that same price. Snow Hill's gas stations are selling at $2.49 a gallon while Trenton's BP is selling at $2.39.

What is with all of the differences in gas prices? Some of it are the stores themselves. Some of them have the "loyalty cards", like Handy Mart or Sheetz, that will deduct three cents off once you swipe and bring it down to what competitors usually sell at.

The gas tax in North Carolina is currently at 2.25 percent; that works out to about 34.55 cents a gallon. It is the highest rate in the South, outside of Florida, and is 10th highest overall. It is still cheaper than Pennsylvania's 58.20 cents a gallon, the nation's highest rate.  

The federal gas tax rate is an added 18.4 cents on top of that. Every county can add an extra sales tax on top of that. So in Lenoir County, Wayne County, Craven County and Jones County, the sales tax is an extra 2 percent. Pitt County and Greene County have a rate of 2.25 percent.

But even then, why are the gas prices different?

"Each location has its own different call structure," Judson Pope, the president of E.J. Pope and Son, which owns the Handy Mart chain and is based out of Mount Olive, said. "Some of the stations we have may make more money. Some make less. Just because one station in an area could sell at cost doesn't mean you can do that every place.  It depends on the market and how much business you can draw."

Other factors, like gasoline purity, can matter as well.

"Non-ethanol gases are priced differently than gas with ethanol," Pope said.  "Diesel has a different cost and different taxes altogether.

If you are looking for the best gas prices around, check out the app Gas Buddy, and it will give you a breakdown of reported rates from the bigger chains and some of the smaller, independent stations.

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