California gas prices top the lower 48 states

by Ernie Hernandez on February 21, 2012

Gas Price sign

Guess which state has the most cars

Yesterday we wrote a piece about how 2013 will be the year of the electric car. Today we talk about California’s trend-setting nature – and what that may mean for you.

As we got gas today in our non-electric car, we had to do a double take when we got to the pump. Just 500 miles ago prices weren’t nearly this high. Here is a link to a chart showing the change in gas prices over the past three months. Today, regular gasoline was $4.19, mid-grade was $4.29 and premium was $4.39. This in Orange County, California. Having just written about the gas cost vs. electric cost comparison yesterday as represented on the new 2013 EPA Fuel Economy Labels, we were acutely aware of how this can affect the cost of ownership over several years. Today’s prices are already significantly above those used in the examples, and we are not even to the summer price bump yet. This price point got us wondering though – how much higher are our prices in California than the rest of the nation. We found out.

There is a great reference website for info on gas prices called GasBuddy.com. One really cool feature of the site is this national gas price heat map. As this map changes day by day, we don’t know what it might look like on the day that you visit. Today, it shows the entire state of California in shades of red or dark red. At the time of this article, that equates to pricing of $3.87-$3.98 per gallon of regular gasoline (red), or $3.98 or higher (dark red). More than half of the state is dark red. Only one county in Washington, and a few in New York show these colors. In contrast, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming offer the lowest prices currently (<$3.12-$3.50 per gallon). None of the other 48 contiguous states had any red at all. Yet. Just as California leads the country in so many ways, gasoline prices usually rise here first. The answer as to why that might be is in our sub-head above. As of the 2009 census data, California had almost twice as many registered vehicles as state number two (Texas).

Just before Christmas last year, the average gas price in the nation was $3.22 per gallon for regular. Today, the average gas price in the nation is $3.54. That’s a 10 percent rise in just two months. We expect these prices to continue rising into the summer driving months, as is typical pricing behavior. Once again, this summer many families will be re-thinking vacation plans as the cost of driving escalates into even more unfriendly territory.

UPDATE (Feb. 22, 2012): One of our readers commented below that the price of gasoline in Hawaii is currently $4.43 per gallon of regular. We apologize for this oversight.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly Downey February 22, 2012 at 5:52 am

You must have meant California had the highest gas prices in the continental nation. On the Big Island of Hawaii, regular was going for 4.43 a gallon.

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Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) February 22, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Kelly – Welcome to Living LEAF. I apologize for not including Hawaii in my write-up. The Gas Buddy heat map presented the contiguous states (which I mentioned), but did not included Alaska or Hawaii. I did not take the extra few minutes to research Hawaii and Alaska. We have updated the title of our original article and included the price of gas in Hawaii.

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