PAYING AT THE PUMP: Troy gas prices among highest in state

Published 3:00 am Saturday, August 31, 2019

National gas prices are on pace to be the cheapest in three years this Labor Day weekend, but residents have taken notice that gas prices in Troy are significantly higher than some surrounding areas.

“It’s unusual,” said Clay Ingram, AAA Alabama spokesperson. “The most likely reason … is that gas stations and oil companies are out there to make as much money as possible and will charge as much as they can for gas if they think they will still sell the same amount. If they think they can sell as much gas for $2.40 a gallon just as they can for $2.30, they’re going to price it at $2.40.”

According to AAA’s gas price database, the average gas price Friday in Pike County was $2.38 per gallon, 16 cents higher than the state average of $2.22. Of the six counties directly adjacent to Pike, only Bullock County had higher prices at $2.44 per gallon. Coffee, Crenshaw and Barbour counties all averaged $2.23, Montgomery County averaged $2.22 and Dale averaged just $2.18. Prices were as low as $2.10 in Etowah County.

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Of Alabama’s 67 counties, only eight counties had more expensive gas prices than Pike County Friday, and the trend has been occurring for at least four days.

Ingram said the holiday traffic with people travelling through to the beach or to visit family could also be a factor causing gas stations to raise prices. The companies may even be raising prices prematurely ahead of a gas tax increase that takes effect Sunday, Ingram said.

Whatever the cause, Ingram said the solution is price shopping.

“By price shopping, you create competition in the market place,” Ingram said. “It’s a very powerful tool motorists have to put downward pressure on gas prices. Usually when we see (abnormally high gas prices), it’s an indicator that people are not price shopping. Most people buy gas at a certain place, that’s just where they buy it. It’s usually on the right-hand side of the road, it might have bright lights and look safe – it’s something that’s convenient. So that allows these stations to mark prices up a good bit higher.”

Ingram said college students can be particularly bad about price shopping – or particularly good, depending on their backgrounds.

“If students have their parents’ credit card, you’ll see them just want to pump the gas and go – they’re not necessarily paying attention to the gas prices,” Ingram said. “And then sometimes for college students having to pay their own way, you’ll see them sometimes be very strict with how they buy gas.”

Demand for gasoline has also been rising in recent weeks according to AAA, but not at a rate that should cause gas prices to rise dramatically.

The state average gas price has actually dropped 15 cents per gallon in the past month and the state average is more than 30 cents cheaper than the same time last year.