Why’s Gas So Expensive Here?

I’ve heard tell about gas prices dropping, but it’s been so little that I haven’t noticed. As it turns out, that’s just Charlottesville. I see on NBC 29’s Gas Price Watch page that fuel is $2.30/gallon in Waynesboro, $2.34/gallon down the street from me in Barboursville, and $2.43/gallon in Ruckersville. Here in C’ville it’s between $2.65 and $2.69 a gallon, which is a bit higher than the national average of $2.61 and significantly higher than the $2.30/gallon average in metropolitan areas across the nation. Our prices are, in fact, the highest in the state.

What’s going on? Did I miss a memo?

09/13 Update: Bryan McKenzie has a lengthy article on this very topic in today’s Daily Progress.

19 thoughts on “Why’s Gas So Expensive Here?”

  1. What’s going on? Did I miss a memo?

    That’s a good question.

    In Malibu California gas prices are often 75 cents to 1.00 more than the rest of the Los Angeles area, and Beverly Hills is usually about 50 cents more than other L.A. areas. There cost is a direct reflection on what people can “afford” to pay. A more affluent area = a higher gas price.

    So I’m going to guess that prices are higher in Cville than some of those other local areas because of the areas “affluence.” However it’s tough to believe that Cville’s the highest in the state- I mean come on shouldn’t Northern Virginia be higher?

  2. coming back from alexandria the other night, i saw $2.15/gallon at the WaWa and Exxon in Gainesville. the prices just kept climbing as we got closer to c’ville. it’s ridiculous. maybe the gas stations around here think that c’villians are so self-absorbed that they don’t travel or pay attention to what’s going on in the rest of the state. they need to drop the prices now! i miss driving my gas-guzzling SUV :(

  3. $2.25 in Stuarts Draft (Shell and Sheetz) and has been at, or below, $2.30 for a week (or more?).

    I was actually talking about it this morning with my significant other and came to the conclusion that C’ville prices are higher because they know people here will (have to?) pay it.

    Over the last year or more, I’ve had the “pleasure” of watching gas prices fluctuate from the Stuarts Draft perspective. It seems that gas prices in C’ville rise faster than they do in Stuarts Draft and they also fall slower. I don’t have data to back that up, but I’m one of those people who keeps an eye on the gas price of every station I pass everyday and it’s been the topic of numerous discussions with co-workers who live in C’ville.

  4. It’s the lack of competition. There are only two major players in C’ville, VA Oil owned by F.F. White and Tiger Fuel owned by the McNeely family. When there are only a couple of players in town, they can decide what to charge and how much. There may be a few independants in C’ville but the two named above own about 80%-90% of the gas stations in the area. Until that changes we are at their mercy.

  5. I’m only a few miles from Barboursville, and live much closer to there than to town. I do believe I’m going to head up there to fill up my tank in the next few days. I don’t normally shop around for fuel price differences (that $0.02/gallon just isn’t worth the trouble), but for $0.25/gallon? That’s $4 in savings on filling my tank, which is some real money.

  6. Channel 29 did a story on this on the 6 o’clock news, Tuesday night, although I don’t see anything related to the story on their website. They tried contacting VA Oil to ask some questions, but were “unable to get anyone to comment.” Color me shocked. Not. Hope they continue to follow up.

  7. They cannot possibly be the highest in the state. I have been through some towns in northern Virginia recently where the gas prices are easily 10¢ more per gallon on average. Certainly though, there is a lag in many areas for the dropping prices.

  8. There has to be competition for efficient pricing. If high profit margins persist, in the long term more competitors will be attracted to this market. More immediate relief will come if enough buyers are attracted to competitors outside the area. If enough people shift their buying to other providers outside the Cville area, our prices will come down. That is not very likely without a concerted effort. Those who have virtually cornered our market know that convenience has its price.

  9. Many years ago I was told that gas prices here “shoot up on rockets and come down on feathers” .
    What you don’t understand about the independents is that with the new EPA storage tank requirements; many small gas stations had to spend an small fortune to replace their storage tanks. This was made easier in Charlottesville if you fianced that with a loan from- Tiger Fuel. Part of the loan stipulation was that you had to contine to buy gas from them as part of the deal. So many of the mom & pops still buy from tiger fuel even though the are run independently.

  10. What I don’t understand is why the Exxon on 250W in Ivy is asking $2.72 while the station across the road is asking $2.57. That just makes no sense at all to me.

  11. This doesn’t exactly seem new to me. I’ve lived here for about 2 years now and gas has consistently been more expensive here than in other nearby areas (or at least it seemed so to me). But this effect seems typical in larger cities.

    (side note: I thought the prevailing thought in the area was that high prices were good since they helped curb consumption?)

    Still, I’ve seen some hints about what’s going on, without anyone really saying it. In-city retailers do compete with those on the outskirts. Those on the outskirts now have the leverage to offset the time/distance costs with cheaper gas. Since not everyone is willing to drive out-of-their way to save a few bucks, the prices in the more populated areas remain higher. Time is money, right?

  12. Waldo, it all depends on where you draw your boundaries. I know that we have more expensive gas than Richmond in general, and I’m sure it’s more expensive here than anywhere else in the state–save Northern Virginia.

    Growing up in Reston and going back there frequently I can tell you that gas is significantly more expensive in the affluent areas of Fairfax County than the highest-priced station here.

  13. What I don’t understand is why the Exxon on 250W in Ivy is asking $2.72 while the station across the road is asking $2.57. That just makes no sense at all to me.

    Probably the same reason the Exxon just off Exit 94 in Waynesboro always seems to be quite a bit more expensive than the Citgo across the street and Martin’s just down the road and still has most of their pumps in use at any given time.

    My best guess would be traffic patterns. The majority of people are “hustling and bustling” in the morning, so stopping for gas is unlikely. However, on the way home, most people have more time. The Exxon in Waynesboro is clearly more “on the way home,” whereas the Citgo and Martin’s are not. And crossing the street means inconvenience.

    gas has gone down

    it just means Cville got the memo and were lazy to act.

    Not necessarily. Gas has continued to go down elsewhere as well. The Shell towards Stuarts Draft is now down to $2.19 and most stations in Stuarts Draft are right around that price. Typically, the Shell station is $0.05-$0.10 cheaper, so I can see $2.15 or lower on the horizon for that station (and would likely correspond to Sheetz, who seems to stay VERY close to the Shell’s prices).

    In other words, prices have gone so low elsewhere and so many stories have started to hit the media that I think C’ville stations realized they had to do SOMETHING. The fact is that they’re still the highest in the area… by quite a bit, from what I can tell.

  14. I wonder how typical I am: I virtually never look at the price of the gas in the gas station that I am stopping at. 99.9% of the time, I (a) notice that I am low on gas, and then (b) pull into whichever gas station is most convenient following my discovery. “Convenient” for me means (a) on the right hand side of the road, (b) an easy ingress/egress route, (c) self-serve pumps with credit card readers on the pump [there are still some stations in town where you have go inside to pay].

    The ONLY thing that makes me go out of my way to go to a particular gas station is if that station has a good-coffee kiosk.

    I know this makes me a huge sitting-duck/sucker for high gas prices, but that’s consumer behavior for you…

  15. Hah! I’m in Colorado on vacation and I’d be happy to pay $2.60 for 87 octane. ;) That said, I can understand the irritation when gas is substantially cheaper over the mountain. When we were leaving labor day weekend, we gassed up in Waynesboro and saved 45 cents/gallon over the average in C’ville.

    Heading back Sunday, hopefully the gas prices will drop as I leave the touristy/affluent areas (though SD had even higher prices than Boulder, so I don’t know . . . )

  16. Transportation costs to South Dakota & many parts of Colorado explain a large portion of their pricing.

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