Shopping around is OK, just don't drive around

Driving around to find the cheapest gas in town might satisfy the bargain-hunter within us all, but it might just be a waste of gas.

The Web site uses thousands of reader reports to list daily prices at gas stations. On Wednesday, it listed prices from 29 stations in Nashua. Aside from the $1.99 stunt, prices ranged from $3.26 to $3.45 a gallon for regular.

That’s a difference of 19 cents a gallon – quite a lot, right?

Well, let’s say you buy 10 gallons and had had to drive two extra miles to get that cheapest gas, in a car that gets 20 mpg in the stop-and-go driving that you’ll find on the busy roads where cheap gas exists.

You just used up a tenth of a gallon, or 32 cents worth of gas, to save $1.90.

That’s a profit but not much of one. If it took you an extra 15 minutes to get to this station (and wait in the line behind the other people trying to save a few cents), you’re barely paying yourself minimum wage.

With less of a price spread, it makes even less sense.

GasBuddy listed just a four-cent difference between the highest and lowest prices in Hudson on Wednesday, so a 2-mile drive would use up all of your savings.

Still, there’s no question that our gasoline prices have fallen since mid summer, as they have in the country as a whole.

The American Automobile Association, which claims to survey more than 100,000 self-service gas stations in the U.S. every day, says the average price of regular gas in New Hampshire peaked at about $4.02 in mid-July, but has fallen by more than 65 cents since then, to Wednesday’s average of $3.37.

However, that’s still lot more than the statewide average of $2.67 which AAA reported one year ago.