A recent study by GasBuddy.com of more than 4,000 cities with five stations or more in Canada and eight stations or more in the United States showed that location indeed does matter when it comes to motor fuel pricing.
Individual towns, cities and hamlets saw annual price averages that ranged from less than $3.25 gallon to more than $4.50 gallon. On some individual days, gasoline averages within the broad geography of North America varied by as much as $2 gallon.
The distinction of the cheapest town in the United States currently belongs to Duncan, S.C., where so far in 2013 the gas price has averaged $3.148 per gallon. Eight other communities in South Carolina made the GasBuddy 10 least-expensive towns’ list, in effect passing southern hospitality along to motorists. One had to travel almost across the country to find a town within another state that cracked the top 10. The city of Casper, Wyoming made the list with an average price of $3.165 per gallon, the lowest price west of the Mississippi.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, one small city in the Mojave Desert topped the GasBuddy.com ranking of over 3,800 towns. At $4.737 per gallon, Needles, Calif. beat out the island town of Lihue, Hawaii for the top spot as most expensive city by 22 cents per gallon. Neighbors to the north in Canada would barely blink an eye at that expense; 95 percent of Canadian cities averaged more than $4 per gallon, while only 49 towns in the United States had averages over that threshold.
In fact, a person could travel through 3,607 metropolises in the United States and find cheaper gas than the cheapest town in Canada. Vegreville, Alberta boasts the least expensive annual average of Canada but at $3.866 per gallon, it would be among the highest 6 percent of municipalities if it was located in the United States.
Norwalk, Ohio, ranked No. 2,361 on the lowest-to-highest list. This city has had an average prices of $3.523 this year, down 12 cents from a year ago. The year's highest average price so far was $3.998, while the lowest was $2.928.
The website included 137 Ohio cities on the list. The city with the state's lowest average price is Kenton at $3.388, ranking it 1,210th best on the overall list. Only 19 cities in Ohio had a higher average price than Norwalk. The city with the state's highest average is Athens at $3,581, ranking it 2,770 overall.
Across the United States, the annual averages were down from last year, with only four localities reporting an average higher than 2012, and those towns all bested last year by a penny or less.
1. Jackson, Wyoming
2. Steamboat Springs, Colorado
3. Ketchikan, Alaska
4. Meridian, Idaho.
Comparatively, Canadian residents of nearly 250 out of 350 cities had to dig deeper into their pockets this year, as the annual averages increased by up to 19 cents from last year.
The West Coast water-view town of Coos Bay, Oregon had the largest annual decrease from last year’s average, dropping 28cts gal to $3.614 gal. Among the 107 towns in Canada that saw a decrease from 2012, Nipigon, Ontario saw the most relief, averaging 13 cents lower than the $4.647 gal average last year.
Other differences between the towns of the United States and those of Canada are seen within the day-to-day prices. The start of 2013 saw the lowest prices among both countries. Stony Plain, Alberta had the lowest average of the year on January 19, 2013 at $3.163 per gallon. The next day just 1,200 miles to the southeast, Laramie, Wyoming reported the lowest price of the United States for 2013 at just $2.47 per gallon.
A little over two months later on March 25, 2013, the highest average of the year in the United States was reported in Needles, California at $4.952 gal. During the height of the summer on July 16, 2013 in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada boasted its highest average of the year at $5.44 per gallon.
The wildest variations in gas prices occurred in the Midwestern U.S. The most volatile town in the country was Champlin, Minnesota an otherwise quiet suburb of Minneapolis. The average price there swung by $1.55 gal from a Jan. 9 low to a May 17 high. Other towns across the Great Plains and Great Lakes tended to see similarly huge seasonal swings.
The quietest, or perhaps most consistent fuel price, occurred in Middletown, Rhode Island. That New England town spanned a distance of only 33 cents per gallon from a May 4 low point to a July 23 peak.
For the full United States and Canadian rankings, click HERE to download the Excel file.