The Gas Trap

Mar. 10, 2022

With the nation’s cost of gas steadily on the rise with no relief in sight, we’re going to look at a component in this situation that you may not have considered, the “gas trap”. The trap is simple: we reflexively go for the lowest cost when we shouldn’t.

Let’s look at the gas trap more closely. You consistently drive an extra six minutes to a different gas station to save 15 cents per gallon, and you go in for a 15-gallon fill-up four times a month. Impulsively it seems worth it, because six minutes isn’t that much, and the savings will add up. Here is a look at the break down of the savings versus the time taken to go to the less expensive gas station:

 

15 cents × 15 gallons = $2.25 saved per trip

 $2.25 × 4 visits per month = $9.00 saved per month

 $9.00 per month over 12 months = $108 saved per year

 

$108 is not chump change, but someone who values their time might see it differently. Now let’s look at the other side of this trap:

 

 6 minutes per trip × 4 visits per month = 24 minutes lost per month

24 minutes per month × 12 months = 4.8 hours lost per year

 

Looking at it this way, you’ve spent almost five hours to save $108. This doesn’t consider the opportunity cost of what you could have done with those five hours, instead of driving out of your way to save money. You might still feel that this trade-off is worth it, but doing these calculations puts a different lens on time value, which we tend to grossly underestimate.

The question becomes, what’s more important to you, your money, or your time? Only you can answer that question. GasBuddy can eliminate a lot of this struggle and help you find the cheapest gas closest to you.

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