WDAM Investigates: Pricing the pumps

WDAM Investigates: Pricing the pumps

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - We all know the pain at the pump can be, well, financially painful. While gas prices are seeing some decline, making sure you get the best price can be tricky. That’s because prices can be very different, which add up with each gallon.

“It is one of those consumer issues that people are always scratching their head about,” said Edward Sayre, University of Southern Mississippi professor of economics and director of the School of Social Science and Global Studies.

WDAM recently took a trip through Purvis, Hattiesburg, Petal, Ellisville and Laurel, staying close to high traffic areas near Interstate 59, to see just how much of a difference there is. On this particular day, a gallon of regular gas in Purvis was $2.39. Hattiesburg was $2.35. Petal was $2.05. Ellisville was $2.09 and Laurel was $2.08. That’s a 34 cent difference between Purvis and Petal, which adds us to a $3.40 difference for 10 gallons.

“There are a couple different reasons why you’ll see those local differences,” said Sayre.

Sayre said there are three big reasons when it comes to local differences. One, taxes. Two, distribution networks, which means how far gas needs to be transported from pipeline terminals.

“There’s one in Collins, there’s one in Meridian, there are a couple down on the coast, but we’re kind of oddly placed between them which means that we have slightly less convenient distribution for a lot of these companies,” said Sayre.

Three, market dynamics, which is basic competition.

“What you’ll see sometimes is that within a very local market, and this could be a matter of just streets, you’ll have gas prices that move in unison with one another,” said Sayre.

Of course, national politics and international relationships play a role in the bigger picture.

Those three wheels spin together, helping to determine what you pay.

"That’s just in terms of, you know, what’s going on with the difference between let’s say a place like Petal or Jackson and Hattiesburg and Gulfport,” said Sayre.

While there’s no simple answer to what causes the price differences, Sayre said drivers should always pay attention and take advantage of services like GasBuddy to try and get the best deal around, or even map out your route if you know you’ll need to fill up that tank.

“Without getting some local knowledge about it, it’s almost impossible to predict from one place to another,” said Sayre.

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