Ask Costco members what they love about the store, and you’ll likely hear more than a few mentions of the ultra-low gas prices. The promise of bargain-priced fill-ups is one of the biggest perks of a Costco membership, which costs $60 a year. But does Costco really have the cheapest gas in America?
Costco may not be the cheapest
CSP magazine, a trade publication for the convenience store and gas station industry, ranked the low-price gas leaders for 2018. Costco, which was No. 1 in 2017, lost the top spot.
Food 4 Less, which has 25 gas stations around the country, had the cheapest gas in America. On average, a gallon of gas at its stations was 21.59 cents cheaper than at competitor stations.
Costco came in second. A gallon of gas was 21.19 cents cheaper on average. But you’ll probably find it a lot easier to find a Costco to fill your tank. The big box store has nearly 450 gas stations around the U.S. – hundreds more than Food 4 Less.
Rounding out the top 10 of cheap gas stations were Quik Stop, We Got It, ARCO, G&M Food Mart, Space Age, Fred Meyer, Rotten Robbie, and Kwik Serve.
How much does it cost to fill up at Costco?
A gallon of regular unleaded cost an average of $2.85 on September 21, according to AAA. Average prices ranged from a high of $3.79 a gallon in Hawaii to a low of $2.52 in Alabama. Prices were generally higher on the West Coast and lower in the Southeast. Prices are up about 25 cents a gallon from a year ago.
To get a sense of how Costco prices compared to local averages, we looked at gas prices in several major U.S. cities using Gas Buddy.
In Los Angeles, the average gas price was $3.67 a gallon (as of September 21). Several Costco stores had gas for $3.25 a gallon, as did Sam’s Club. Similarly priced gas was available at a handful of other stations, such as ARCO, where you don’t need a membership to fill up. But at some stations in L.A., gas was $4.49 a gallon or more.
In Chicago, gas averaged $3.14 a gallon. Costco and Sam’s Club were the cheapest places to fill your tank in the metro area, with prices ranging from $2.79 to $2.73 a gallon.
In Atlanta, a gallon cost an average of $2.76. At Costco and Sam’s Club, gas was $2.47, while BJ’s had gas for $2.48 a gallon. A couple of stations did report slightly lower prices than the membership clubs. Some QuikTrip, Speedway, and Murphy USA stations had gas for $2.52 a gallon.
Clearly, this isn’t a scientific survey. But a quick look at gas prices seems to suggest that Costco prices are not only lower than average, but also usually one of the cheapest places to fill up – though it might not be the cheapest.
Should you switch to Costco for gas?
So, should you start filling up exclusively at Costco? Maybe. If you drive a lot and have a Costco nearby, there’s a good chance it will save you money. But you’ll need to research gas prices in your local area and do the math to figure out if the savings are worth it.
In high gas taxes in cities like Chicago, Costco might not offer a huge price advantage, noted the Christian Science Monitor. Plus, there are other ways to cut your fuel costs. Grocery stores might offer per-gallon discounts tied to their rewards programs, while cash-back credit card rewards can also help you save. (Worth noting: Costco’s Anywhere Visa card gives you 4% back on your first $7,000 of yearly gas purchases.) Also, look out for gas stations that give you a discount for paying in cash rather than with a credit or debit card.
Finally, using an app like Gas Buddy can help you compare prices and see if Costco (or its rival Sam’s Club) is really the cheapest game in town.
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