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Quick question on buying gas

Lancaster, UK
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32 posts
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Quick question on buying gas

I just read on tripadvisor.com/Travel-g191-c1867/United-Sta… the following advice:

"Most gas stations require you to pay before filling up--even if no sign is displayed. "

This is the opposite of the practice in the UK, so can someone just comfort me by explaining the process? And I hope your advice will stop me irritating anyone else at the forecourt!

Do you park up by a pump, go into the shop, guess how much you're going to need to pay, pay it, and then go back and operate the pump?

Doesn't that make it difficult to "fill her up"? What if you say pay $20, but you miscalculated and the tank will only take $18's worth of gas? Have you blown those $2?

Do the pumps cut out when you reach the amount you've paid?

And while on the subject, are there any places that are usually better prices for buying gas? In the UK, supermarkets often discount their petrol, and even if they're not loss-leading with it, can be relied on to be cheapest in an area.

San Diego
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1. Re: Quick question on buying gas

Most of the time I use a credit card to pay . There is a machine on the pump where you can"swipe" your card and then you pump gas an dyou are done.

To use cash (like my DH) you go into the store(not a supermarket they do not have gas pumps) you tell the person the No. that is on the pump so they know which one you are using,an dyou estimate an amount say$20. I fyou do not use it all then the store will giv e you back your money. I would say that on or near a major freeway(highway) is MORE expensive than inside the town.

San Francisco
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for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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2. Re: Quick question on buying gas

[i]"This is the opposite of the practice in the UK,"[/i]

It used to be that way in much of the U.S. as well, but I guess you folks have stayed more honest than us colonists :-) "Drive-offs" became a problem as gas got pricier (people fill up and then leave without paying), so many places now require us to prepay.

As Riffsmom said, you give the cashier the money you think will cover the gas you need. You get change if you don't pump the entire amount. But yes, the pump will dispense only what you paid for, so if you underestimate, you have to repeat the process.

I wonder if there are reciprocal arrangements between British and American banks so travelers can use their credit or ATM cards in the other country (or get a card that can be used).

Yucaipa, California
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for Anaheim
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3. Re: Quick question on buying gas

When I started driving (back in the old days, a little over 30 years ago), we actually still had gas stations that had attendants who serviced the car with gas, cleanned the windshield, and checked and filled the oil if needed. Then things changed and I had to pump the gas myself (if I wanted to save money), and in a mini-skirt this was not too easy some times! Back then, we had "full service islands" and "self serve islands", full service being being a bit more money. Wish we still had the choice.

Most gas stations have a little mini store with them where you go in to pay for gas. So when you are on the road and stop for gas you can also get coffee, hot dogs, sandwiches, juice, soda (from a fountain), candy and snacks, magazines and newspapers (and maps sometimes), cigarettes. Some actually are very nice and have a variety of other items, usually grocery type items like cereals. Some have automatic car washes which are convenient and quite fun. You don't pay less for gas where there are mini stores, as mentioned. Gas stations can sometimes compete for customers when prices are high and, in that case, the TV news stations inform you of where the low prices are because it is a big story. Other than that, prices in all gas stations in any one area stay pretty much the same and only vary about 5 cents a gallon at most. They are more expensive in resort areas and in places previously mentioned.

Regarding using your credit card to pay for gas. I don't know if this is mentioned already. I discovered this summer that when you guess at the amount of money you will need to fill the tank and use a credit card, if you have guessed too high your card is only charged for the amount pumped. So I tell the cashier that I would like $30, for example, and I can only pump in $23, I will only be charged for the $23. I used to always use cash and guess, but I have found this to be so much easier. Of course, if you must use cash it is a hassle. I have never used the "pay at pump" credit card machines because I don't trust them. I like going inside and seeing a cashier. Oh, and for some reason many merchants in many stores and gas stations no longer require a signature for credit card purchases under a certain amount such as $50. I can't get used to that myself.

The gas pumps here (at least throughout Southern California) have pumps that shut off automatically when your tank is full. "Topping off" your tank is discouraged and against the law, so just about all pumps were changed to make that very difficult and to make sure that gas and fumes do not leak between the pump and the tank.

Upstate S.C.
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4. Re: Quick question on buying gas

What the posters say here is a California and Nevada thing. Here in the South (Atlantic Coast), we swipe our credit card, and then fill 'er up. Some machines now accept cash, and you have to go inside to receive your change.

I also wish to have explained the machine station at the pumps where you deposit cash or "ATM". Is the "ATM" a credit/debit card? Is there a fee for using the ATM? Last week was my first exposure to this machine. I just fed it cash and went inside if I had change coming. Yes, you estimate how much gas you need, pay for it, and get any change inside the station.

I found ARCO had the best prices per gallon. And, yes, the pump cuts off when it reaches the prepaid amount, or when full.

I do not remember any supermarkets in California that have pumps. Several do though here in the South.

Pre-pay is the service station's way of fighting "drive-offs".

Seattle
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5. Re: Quick question on buying gas

I agree with ARCO being the best - not sure if they have ARCO in California. In Oregon - you cannot pump your own gas. Some companies like Shell are consistantly higher than other companies. Look for a company that shows lower prices on the billboard. I don't trust the CC swipe - too many frauds up here. I pay cash. I either put in $40 in the machine or go inside and pay. Make note of the pump you are using.. I usually overpay - then get the change back - no problem. Pumps do cut out. Don't top off - if the weather is hot - the expansion can be a problem if you overfill.

It is real easy -

I drove in France and filled up with gasoil - it was desiel (sp?) and I had to be towed & pumped out. BAsically gas here is with three choices - standard, one grade better and then premium. Check what your rental car suggests. Most of us get by with standard grade.

San Diego
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6. Re: Quick question on buying gas

Yes we have ARCO here.

I have been swiping my credit card for gas for the last 20years here in California(since we moved from New Jersey) and there has NEVER been a prob of any kind.You don't sign anything and they ask if you want a receipt but I never get one and that's that!! Everything is done inside the machine and noone sees your card.

Ljubljana, Slovenia
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7. Re: Quick question on buying gas

Don't worry about this too much, the process is very simple and clearly marked at each pump. I am surprised to read about the bad experience with "swipe your credit card" machines. I have been using them whenever available from Florida to Alaska and haven't had any problem whatsoever. However some pumps introduced entering your ZIP code as an additional safety feature, which does not work with European credit card as the system doesn't recognize our home ZIP codes. In this case you have to go inside and give your credit card to the cashier.

Lancaster, UK
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8. Re: Quick question on buying gas

Thanks everyone. Really useful comments.

For what it's worth, I think drive-offs are less of a problem here in the UK - and petrol station forecourts are virtually all well covered by CCTV cameras and licence-plate recognition cameras to catch those that try it.

Some of the big supermarket chains (Tesco at least) now have pay at pump pumps - it speeds things up for them, meaning they sell more, and it means they can keep the pumps running 24 hrs without needing cashiers.

The comment about prices not varying by more than 5 cents a gallon made me smile - if I go 20 miles down the road, it's usually 5 pence (i.e. about 10 cents) a **litre** cheaper than the nearest petrol station to my home. (1 US gallon = 3.8 litres). Fortunately, I go that way a lot!

San Francisco
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for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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9. Re: Quick question on buying gas

* "When I started driving (back in the old days, a little over 30 years ago), we actually still had gas stations that had attendants who serviced the car with gas..."

I actually experienced this a couple of weeks ago! It was in Fernley, Nevada, at a Chevron station associated with a repair garage. I started to go inside to give my card to the employee, but he came out and started pumping. Then he cleaned the windshield. I nearly had a heart attack! LOL!

In Oregon (maybe other places too), self-serve is forbidden, for fire safety reasons. And in some places, also for safety, unattended gas stations are prohibited; they can be self-service, but there has to be an employee on site whenever it is open.

Today I bought gas in San Francisco for $2.65. That's the low end now; I see it as high as $2.75 in my neighborhood. A couple of weeks ago I paid $2.09 on I-80 near Lyman, Wyoming. So I suggest that anyone in San Francisco who wants to pay less, hop in your car and drive to Wyoming (do it now, before the price goes up!)

Portland, Oregon
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10. Re: Quick question on buying gas

Replying to Frisco...

...it's usually cheaper in Nebraska!

Well, not this time.

http://aaa.opisnet.com/

The link I've posted is about as good as I've found for locating the best gas prices. If you're good with maps, it can save you plenty of money. I've actually progressed to the point where I'll map out a route and not always top the tank when I know something's less expensive down the road.

Aulus... many times, though not all the time, what you describe with supermarkets is also true in the states. Funny thing is that the AAA site usually finds something even cheaper in major cities.