Fresno and the Hanford-Corcoran area are among the top 10 places nationwide where drivers are likely to overpay for gas.
The cities on the list had the widest spread between the lowest-priced stations and the highest priced. That means drivers could unnecessarily pay high prices if they don’t shop around, said Allison Mac, GasBuddy’s West Coast petroleum analyst.
In Fresno, prices Wednesday ranged from $2.99 to $3.71, according GasBuddy.com.
“Knowing there’s a wide spread in this city, I could probably get gas for below $3 if I actually wanted to shop around,” Mac said of Fresno.
The GasBuddy rankings were determined after tracking the top 5% highest-priced gas stations and the bottom 5% of lowest-priced stations daily throughout 2014.
Fresno ranked as the No. 10 city with the widest spread in prices at 65.6 cents. The Hanford-Corcoran area came in at No. 7 with prices falling across a spread of 69.3 cents.
In contrast, many cities in Utah had a 25-cent difference in prices, meaning prices at stations don’t vary that much.
Fresno and Hanford-Corcoran, along with other cities on the list, probably have a wider spread of prices because their stations are on major highways, which tend to have higher prices, Mac said.
“A lot of gas stations in that area, right off the highway, can mark up the price,” she said. “They know people are buying out of convenience.”
California’s volatile market also probably contributes to the difference in prices, Mac said
The cost of gas has risen dramatically in recent weeks. Prices rose 75 cents in a month, with the average price at $3.38 a gallon in Fresno on Wednesday, according to AAA of Northern California.
According to AAA, prices shot up for several reasons, including the market’s reaction to an explosion at ExxonMobil’s Torrance refinery and maintenance at the Tesoro refinery in Martinez that has led to reduced production. Prices also typically rise this time of year in California as refineries do maintenance to prepare for the switch to a cleaner-burning gas that is more costly to make .
However, the increase has slowed in recent days because there are no supply issues with crude oil, said AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris. Supplies are strong, though there are concerns about production cutbacks due a global oversupply, she said.
And gas prices in California are slowing their climb because “inventory is not really low as we thought in California,” Mac said.