British Columbia

How to save money at the pump — it's not just picking the cheapest gas station

British Columbians won’t be seeing relief at the gas pumps anytime soon, with prices spiking for the third time in a week in Metro Vancouver and summer prices on the way.

Driving habits can drive fuel consumption up by 40%, says car care expert

A taxi driver fills his tank in Surrey, B.C., as prices on the Lower Mainland hit all-time highs in April 2019. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

British Columbians won't be seeing relief at the pumps any time soon, with prices spiking for the third time in a week in Metro Vancouver and summer prices on the way. 

Prices aren't equal across the board, though.

In Surrey, a drive two minutes down the road can save six cents a litre — depending on which station you stop at.

A Shell gas station in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday. Prices can fluctuate even between stations mere blocks apart. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The same is true in Vancouver where, just blocks apart on Monday, one gas station set prices for regular at 165.9 cents per litre, while another was charging 159.9 cents.

That's because they have different suppliers, explained Lindsay Meredith, a marketing professor at Simon Fraser University.

"Some of those gas stations and their suppliers are flat out of gas and are buying gas at the new higher price," she said.

"The other guys have got a backlog storage."

Gas stations switched over to summer gas on April 15, which is four cents more expensive than what is used during winter. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Switching seasons

The latest round of increases at the pump is due to a couple different reasons, including the strength of the Canadian dollar, reliance on U.S. refineries and the switch to summer prices.

"The difference really is this: in the summer, you want to make sure that your gasoline doesn't expand or evaporate," said petroleum analyst Dan McTeague.

"In the winter, you want the reverse — you want your gasoline to be highly volatile so that it responds better to colder conditions."

That's why a four-cent hike is "baked into the price" from April 15 to Sept. 15.

Driving habits can have a huge impact on fuel consumption — more aggressive driving uses more gas, says the BCAA's Josh Smythe. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

How to save gas

Other than choosing where to fill up strategically, there are a few other ways to save gas money.

"The air conditioning, when being operated, steals some energy from the engine," said Josh Smythe, an automotive care manager with BCAA.

"If we shut the air conditioning off and roll the windows down a little bit, we can find we save a little bit more fuel."

Gas prices in B.C.'s Lower Mainland hit all-time highs in April 2019. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Basic maintenance — like tire pressure, spark plugs and air filter — all help a vehicle run more efficiently.

One of the biggest differences is driving habits though, Smythe said.

On the highway, for the average car, a consistent 80 km/h to 85 km/h is the most fuel-efficient.

Accelerating fast, hitting the brakes often and changing lanes frequently all adds up.

"There's about a 35 to 40 per cent jump in fuel consumption when you're pedal punching like that — being on your gas pedal or your brake pedal," he said.

"I pick my lane and I stay in it. I try not to weave and just keep a steady pace."

With files from Lien Yeung and The Early Edition


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