Los Angeles has some of the highest gas prices in the nation.
California's dependence on in-state refineries that produce special, pricey fuel, a decrease in output as the result of refinery problems, and an annual switch to more expensive summer-blend gas have made things worse in recent weeks.
But ... L.A. is such a strange, crazy market that it has some of the widest spreads in the nation between the most expensive and least expensive pump prices consumers can find the street.
And that means you could be saving cash by simply shopping around a little.
The fuel-pricing website GasBuddy.com this week issued the results on an analysis of 2014 pump prices in 50 American cities and came up with a list of towns where the spread between the best and worst prices was greatest.
L.A. had the 11th widest spread in the nation, meaning that you're probably leaving money on the table.
In fact, it was pretty clear that California cities had ridiculous gulfs between high and low pump costs. L.A.'s 65.1-cent difference between the best and worst pump prices was bested or matched outside California only by Washington, D.C. (second in the country at 82.9 cents), Chicago (eighth at 69 cents) and White Plains, New York (12th at 65.1 cents).
In a statement, GasBuddy put it this way:
California markets dominated the West Coast rankings, which recorded the greatest spreads nationwide, with just two non-California markets making the top 10.
We took a recent high price for the L.A. area from GasBuddy, $4.89, and multiplied it by 12, the number of gallons an average small car tank can handle. If the 65.1 cents spread holds, you could be wasting nearly $8 a tank by failing to shop around.
That's a free lunch every week for many commuters.
Knowing that there are much lower prices out there allows you to obtain "hundreds of dollars in savings" over the long term, says Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy:
And, by consistently purchasing from retailers pricing at the lowest range for your metro area, that exerts additional pressure on others to be more competitive.
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Los Angeles was actually near the bottom of Golden State cities with the greatest ranges. Only San Rafael, at 64.5 cents, had a smaller gulf in prices. Bakersfield had the highest in the nation, at 85.5 cents, and was followed in the state by San Bernardino (third in the nation, at 81.4 cents) and San Francisco (fourth, at 76 cents).
GasBuddy says it took an average of the highest 5 percent of station prices and an average of the lowest 5 percent and determined the gap for each town.
Gregg Laskoski, another senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy, says, "No matter where you live, the clear message is buyer beware."