Gassing Up Patterns

Last Updated on

Everyone has likely been noticing the recent spike in gas prices, what with the current global situation. It got me thinking, have people been changing their patterns when they gas up?

The gas prices here in Vancouver fluctuate, I find that they are most expensive during the day, and the least expensive during the late evenings. I find that during the middle of the week, it's more expensive. During the weekend evenings, it's least expensive. When I talk about fluctuation in prices, the fluctuation is usually about a $0.03 to $0.10 difference (I'm talking per litre here, not per gallon!). For a 35 litre tank, this would be a $1.05 to $3.50 difference in price.  I know it doesn't seem like much to even bother, but if you fill up often, that can add up.

My gas up patterns

I fill my tank up when it's at a 1/4 tank or less (which I really shouldn't do because that's bad for the car, according to my mechanic).  When I gas up my car, I usually fill it up.  I'm not sure why I have a habit of waiting until it's at 1/4 tank or less, though I think it could be because I have the perverse desire to see how many kilometres I can go on my car with the one tank of gas.  My car averages 300km per tank of gas.  Under extreme circumstances, I sometimes put just a little bit of gas in the tank and hope that the gas prices will decrease in the next few days.  It's almost like.. gambling.

gas Pictures, Images and Photos

I know that my family and friends having been shifting their gassing up patterns recently because of the gasoline price spike, they get a little bit of gas, and tell themselves they will get more gas later at a lower price.

As for me, I usually get gas in the late evenings, around 9pm or so.  The time I most dislike getting gas is in the mornings before work- that's when I find the gas prices are the highest, as well, getting gas usually makes me late for work!

When I visited Melbourne, Australia a few years ago, the gas patterns are very predictable, apparently- it always goes up on a certain day of the week, and goes down on a certain day of the week (I think my uncle, who lives in Melbourne, told me that it always drops on a Thursday).

When I was younger, I recall that my frugal mom would always intentionally drive to the other side of town to take advantage of the lower gas prices at the pump. I think it was about a $0.03 difference. She says she doesn't do that anymore, thankfully. It doesn't make sense to me, to waste gas to save money on gas. That's somewhat analogous to spending $500 on a wallet, when you don't have money to put in a wallet.

Some tips to save on gas:

  • Lump up your errands– when I head out for errands, I have a strategy- I don't like going all across town for stuff (not just because of the fuel cost, but more so because I am inherently lazy).  For example, I like to do my grocery shopping after work on my way home… I'm not much of a weekend grocery store shopper- I find the crowds a bit much on the weekends anyway.
  • Don't drive- I know that this might not be possible for many people, but if you live in a public transit or bike friendly location, then try to incorporate that just once a week into your commute.  One of my goals this year is to cycle to work (it's about a 30 minute ride).  I'll start off with once a month, and then increase it to twice a month, and try once a week.  I'll make sure to let you know how that goes (hopefully it won't be an epic FAIL).
  • Stop driving like a maniac– Speeding your way in and out of traffic and being so aggressive isn't going to help anyone (not even yourself).  Not only are you adding to the karmic imbalance in the world with road rage and aggressive driving, you are wasting gasoline.  This matters to most, unless of course, you drive a Hummer and like driving aggressive.
  • Get rid of the junk in your truck- That roof rack may make you look sporty and cool, but if you're not using it, it's just costing you more in the end.  The same goes for heavy stuff in your trunk that you have been meaning to clean out.  Sandy from yes I am cheap even goes so far as to want to take out the spare tire in her car (her boyfriend understandably wouldn't let her 🙂 )!  You should definitely check out her list of gasoline saving tips.
  • Maintain maintain maintain– Change your air filter, add some fuel stabilizer from time to time, remember to do your oil changes, check your tire pressure.  I confess that am a culprit of not checking my tire pressure regularly.
  • Switch your tires- If you're running on winter tires and it's spring or summer already, you're losing 10% fuel economy on your car.
  • Air Conditioning or Windows Down?– I posted an article on whether air conditioning vs rolling your windows down is better for fuel economy.
  • Check the gas prices– There's an app on the iPhone (I'm sure it's on Android and Blackberries too) that lets you know what the most recent gasoline price is and where there is cheap gas (around you).

Your turn!

Readers, I'm curious to hear about what your gas up patterns are like?  Are you a “wait til the last minute” or “keep it full” kind of guy or girl?  Do you try and wait until the cheapest time of the day or week to get gas?

How are the gas prices over in your neck of the woods?  Here in Vancouver, it's at $1.25/L right now (we have a lot of taxes on our gas).

The following two tabs change content below.
Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.

31 Comments

  1. Fox on February 28, 2011 at 7:19 am

    That is some serious fluctuation!
    Here in Toronto, they change at midnight only. Hardly ever during the day. The price would fluctuate only 1-4 cents, if that, up or down. Ten cents is an extreme.
    Sounds like we have the same prices, give or take. Our current price was $1.20 this morning, regular!



  2. retirebyforty on February 28, 2011 at 9:42 am

    I gas up when I’m about 1/4 full too. I just don’t like going to the gas station. Usually, I only need to gas up once every two weeks so I just go whenever it is convenient for me. I don’t think our gas price changes much over the day, but I’m not sure.
    Gas here in Portland is about $3.30/gallon. Still a bit cheaper than in your neck of the wood.



  3. Money Pincher on February 28, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I ALWAYS gas up at night after 7 pm when the price are lower. It is usually 3 pennies lower than the day price (i.e. if it was $1.25/ L during the day, it goes down to $1.22/L or if I am lucky, $1.20/ L)

    BF and I have the Nexus Pass and we usually go to the states to shop for groceries, home reno stuff from home depot (yes, they are unbelievably cheaper than Canada, especially light bulbs). While we are there, we usually gas up there too. We go down at least once a month.



  4. Sustainable PF on February 28, 2011 at 9:38 am

    This past weekend I had to travel to attend a meeting. In Ontario prices were about $1.17 a litre when I filled up on the Thurs and $1.26 at the edge of the city (read: near the 401) when I left Saturday. Killer prices.

    While i’m glad I gassed up Thursday, I have to admit I was running almost empty. We use our car so infrequently we often forget it is low on gas.

    Regardless, what i’d like to point out was driver behaviour on the (notoriously FAST) Hwy 401. I was traveling about 115 km/h (limit is 100) and I was passing a LOT of people. Usually (when gas prices are low) driving 115km/h on the 401 means you pass no one and you get quite a few hand gestures by people motoring along at speed exceeding 140km/h.

    Anyhow, I found it interesting how a 20%-25% spike in prices was actually causing people to slow down, at least temporarily.



  5. MoneyCone on February 28, 2011 at 9:50 am

    How do I deal with the gas price hike? I load up on oil stocks! 🙂



  6. Helly on February 28, 2011 at 10:13 am

    I refill my tank when the needle starts hovering above the “E”. For me, figuring out where to go is a cinch, as there is only one gas station in town that consistently has the cheapest prices. Fortunately, it’s also located conveniently near shops we frequent, so it’s easy to get to when running errands. Time of day doesn’t matter– prices tend to stay stable throughout the day and only fluctuate every few days, if at all. Gas prices here are roughly $3.50/gallon, or at least they were the last time I refueled over a week ago– no idea how that converts into Canadian dollars and price per liter for comparison, though 🙂



  7. krantcents on February 28, 2011 at 11:06 am

    In the states, Costco offers gas at lower cost prices (20 cents differential per gallon) than the prevailing rates and I receive a 3% rebate too. You can still receive a rebate with the right cards.



  8. eemusings on February 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Hardly any fluctuation here. It just keeps going up! $2.02 a litre. Certainly not during the day or even the week!

    Why is it bad to fill up at 1/4? When should you?

    The first half of the tank goes slower than the second half, so I guess really we should keep it topped up constantly. But really, we run it till nearly empty; after all a tank is $80-90 now and we can burn through that in a week. BF has a long commute and while where we live now is handy for me and work, it’s the furthest we’ve ever lived from our friends and family so we’re often driving to them. Plus his sister, who he sees the most, is home with the kids and no car, so she can’t come to us.



  9. Henway on February 28, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    I used to drive my car to work everyday but stopped early this year because it got too expensive. I thought I’d have a much longer commute but it actually turned out to be the same (rush hr traffic really slows things down in NYC).



  10. serf on February 28, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    I know this is a personal finance related site so it focuses on Canadians and expenses, etc.

    BUT, sometimes it’s good to look at things from a wider perspective.

    Part of this spike is due to unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

    Keep in mind that thousands of people, young and old, are risking their lives to voice their displeasure about being repressed by violent dictators. These people aren’t worried about 3 cents on gas, they’re focusing on the right to vote and other freedoms we take for granted every day….

    So next time we feel upset about the 10 to 20 cents “extra” we’re paying, think about the costs that the people there are paying for something we already have….



  11. young on February 28, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    @Fox- Midnight!? So you have to find a gas station that opens 24 hours I assume? Yeah, Ontario and BC, the new HST buddies 🙂



  12. young on February 28, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    @Sustainable PF- Interesting! Thanks for sharing, SPF. I haven’t noticed anything myself, though i don’t do much highway driving. I think everyone is really feeling the pinch, and I’m glad to hear this is changing behaviour. Hopefully we’ll have more and more people trying to ditch their cars and opt for more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.



  13. young on February 28, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    @retirebyforty- Yeah, I gas up about once every two weeks too. Today, I left it to right where it was almost at the “E” and I had about 25 more km’s on it than I usually do. I think it must be due to the cold weather and the contraction of the gasoline, more bang for your buck, I suppose 🙂



  14. young on February 28, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    @MoneyCone- Ohhhhh boy am I KICKING myself for not getting in on Husky (HSE.TO)! Hindsight is 20/20 of course 🙂 Good on you for getting in at the right time!



  15. young on February 28, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    @Money Pincher- Yeah, you’re in Vancouver so you and I both notice the same patterns 🙂 really? Home Depot is cheaper int he states than Canada? I find Home Depot so expensive! (when things aren’t on sale, but there’s no alternative to home depot, except for Rona which can be expensive too, so I end up buying this on regular price which kills me a little inside) Maybe my boyfriend and I will head over there too this weekend (with the dollar at $1.02, can’t go wrong!). So do you pay the duty when you cross back over the border then?



  16. young on February 28, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    @krantcents- That sounds like a brilliant idea, getting two birds with one stone. I don’t think the Costcos here in Canada (Vancouver anyways) have gas stations.



  17. young on February 28, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    @eemusings- wow, $2 a litre? That’s pretty expensive.. and I thought BC, Canada was bad. The mechanic told me to not let the gas tank go less than 1/4 empty, because it might risk running on fumes, which is bad for your car. I understand what you mean about having friends and family further away (even if they’re on the other side of town)… I have a ton of friends living in the suburbs (about 10km away) and often drive over there a few times a week.



  18. young on February 28, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    @Helly- Oh man, you’re making Santa Barbara seem even better each time! Stable prices, convenience… Oprah! what’s not to love? 🙂



  19. young on February 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    @Henway- yeah, some of my colleagues get to work from a suburb of Vancouver in less time than i do by commuting with mass transit. I remember NYC having a really extensive and organized subway system 🙂



  20. young on February 28, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    @serf- Thank you so much for mentioning this and shedding light on remembering to focus on the ‘bigger picture’. We should all take a step back to think about how lucky we really are to live in a free country, to be able to voice our opinions without being opressed or punished, to be able to vote, to be free from civil violence…

    It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own little bubbles (I am guilty of this, obviously!) and forget about what’s happening in the world around us.

    Thanks! 🙂



  21. Money Pincher on March 1, 2011 at 9:57 am

    For some reason, BF and I have not been taxed (touch wood), we declare everything we bring back.

    Yes, we find Home Depot in the States cheaper than the Home Depot in Canada. We were there this past weekend to pick up some foam bottle thing to seal up the windows, doors etc. to help insulate the house better and it was on sale for 1/2 the price…BF told me that he would have paid about $100 for the stuff he bought in Canada, but he only paid $60 for all the stuff in US. We also go to Lowes too for renovation stuff while we are in the States. We also bought our lawn mower a couple weeks ago too. 🙂



  22. Sandra Seeves on March 1, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    I guess the best way to save on gasoline is either buying an electric car or don’t use a car 🙂



  23. CF on March 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    The bf and I use the car co-op so luckily we don’t have to pay for gas! I’m not looking forward to the summer though – we usually rent a car and do one or two road trips… gas prices are really going to put a $$ dent in those trips!



  24. Sandy @ yesiamcheap on March 2, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    I’ve been close to having to PUSH the car to the gas station. I’m a last minute gas girl. I can”t help it. But this time the day after I filled up the tank gas went up $0.15 a gallon!



  25. young on March 2, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    @Sandy- haha, I think you and I are very very similar 🙂



  26. young on March 2, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    @CF- oh but road trips are so fun!! Gas prices usually go up even higher in the summer too, unfortunately 🙁 The car co-op is a great idea, especially if you live near a co-op car station.



  27. young on March 2, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    @Sandra Seeves- Yeah, and not get a gas guzzler especially 🙂



  28. young on March 2, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    @Money Pincher- wow, that’s great! I think most custom officers appreciate honesty, versus people trying to sneak things across the border. Maybe I’ll check it out this weekend, our dollar is so good it would be silly not to. 🙂



  29. SavingMentor on March 8, 2011 at 5:45 am

    I guess I’m in the minority. I often wait until the gas light is on and usually I drive the car for up to 30 or 40km even after the gas light comes one. Most cars can go at least 60km AFTER the light comes on without running out of gas. I’ve only ever ran out of gas once in my life. I have no idea if I’m damaging my car by “running on fumes” but I have also heard that keeping a full tank helps avoid condensation inside the gas tank in the winter, which can also be bad for your car.

    The main reason I do this is because I am lazy and because I get better rewards (Canadian Tire) if I can fill up with more than 40L of gas. My car has a small tank (45L I think) so getting a full 40L in there can be tough. It really bothers me when I miss it by like $1 too … haha! Hopefully I’m not seriously damaging my car though.

    In regards to shopping in the states. You totally need to believe the savings! Have you read my post on Cross Border Shopping? We bought all of our baby stuff in the states and everything was pretty much half REGULAR PRICE. I didn’t even bother looking for sales because the prices are so cheap.

    In regards to duty/tax. There aren’t that many items that you would ever actually be required to pay duty on – so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. You should however have to pay HST on your purchases if your total is anything significant. I always declare things honestly and I always have to pay but my purchases are usually large.

    The exception, of course, is if you are under the allowance which goes up the longer you stay in the USA before returning to Canada.



  30. Los Angeles Honda on March 8, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    I’m in Los Angeles in Ca and to be honest, the rise hasn’t really affected my gas patterns much; I drive as usual. However; I think the two factors which help the most to conserve gas is to drive smoothly (don’t accelerate all crazy) and get rid of junk in the trunk.



  31. young on March 8, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    @Saving Mentor- The more I learn about you, the more I find out how INTENSE you are with saving money! 🙂 Definitely deserve the title of SavingMentor! 😉 I still haven’t gone down to the states yet, maybe this weekend, I don’ t know. We already bought most of our stuff. Just need a coffee table, headboard, bedside tables, is all. Maybe I’ll start looking online right now for some down south of the border 🙂



Leave a Comment





> >