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There are many people I know that swear by Costco for the cheapest gas prices.

I wish there was a way to make it work for us, but typically we don't get too much gas from Costco.

mb-201103gaspumpIf anybody has any suggestions on how we could make it work (or whether we're taking the right approach), I'd love to hear your feedback.  Here are the main reasons that Costco gas doesn't really work for us:

  • Location – There isn't a Costco that's very convenient to us.  In fact, if you go to Costco's website and choose a store locator, we're almost smack dab in the middle of four stores.  This gives us a nice selection of stores to choose from but that also means they're all about eight miles away.
  • Location (part 2) – None of the stores is near where we typically go.  My wife doesn't work, and 75% of the shopping trips she makes are within a couple miles of the house.  I work three miles from home, so there's not one that's convenient for me to ‘stop on the way'
  • Timing – We typically go to Costco once per month.  We usually time our visits to match the coupons that we get in the mail, which rotate once per month or so.  Often times, we will have enough gas in the car to where filling up isn't necessary.
  • Payback effect – My wife's car is the one that would typically be a candidate to get gas at Costco.  She drives an SUV that gets around 18 miles per gallon.  Unless we're driving past one or making a planned shopping trip, the ‘cost' of getting gas would be about one gallon.  With a twenty gallon fill-up, that means that (at current rates), we'd have to save about 17 cents per gallon to break even.
  • Value of time – I've heard, especially recently, that this type of difference between nearby stations and Costco stations does often exist, with some family and friends reporting up to a 25 or 30 cent difference in pricing.  But, on top of the cost savings, you have to factor in whether the 30-45 minute trip would be worth the additional savings.  Maybe, but I'd rather spend the quality time with my family than spend that time in the car or away from my family.
  • Chance -Even if Costco gas is cheaper, there's no guarantee that it would be as cheap, even if you hopped in the car and drove to the station as soon as you heard of the variation in price.  Just like anybody else, Costco can raise prices anytime, so you'd have to ask whether that 25 cents per gallon difference will still be there.

Bottom line, if we had a Costco right down the street or if we drove past one on a regular basis, I'd be inclined to make more of our gas purchases there.  As it is, it's pretty rare.  I think the one thing I will do is look to see if we can plan our fill-ups to coincide with our monthly shopping trips.  Outside of that, I don't see a way that really makes sense for us to utilize Costco's gas stations.

Any ideas?