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Filling Up with Fuel in the US

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 31 Jul 2013 | comments*Discuss
Filling Up With Fuel In The Us

The great American road trip is a fabled car journey that can last for weeks across ever-changing scenery and beautifully unusual oddities, cities and country. Many people dream of being able to drive cross-country in the USA and often those who manage to do so are stunned at the sheer expanse of the country.

One of the best aspects of driving in the USA is that you are generally consistently surprised by the relatively inexpensive fuel costs there. Coming from the UK, the petrol prices in the US are a dream as they’re still generally lower. Even though in recent years US petrol prices have soared, they’re still slightly lower than the UK and will probably remain that way for some time due to different tax structures. When you’re travelling through the US, it’s important to know the general rules about filling up there.

Leaded, Unleaded, Diesel or Gas?

Although it’s almost impossible these days to find UK pumps with leaded petrol, you’ll find it far more difficult in the USA. Almost all of the service stations there only have unleaded petrol, diesel or gas and if you try to find leaded petrol or enquire about it, most people will find that very odd. All new cars are unleaded and rental cars are similar. You may request a gas powered car or a hybrid from your rental agency however and generally these are well serviced by petrol stations.

There is normally a gas pump at most service areas in the US now. Diesel is also very popular in the US and you’ll tend to get more mileage for your money if you choose a diesel car over petrol. However, often diesel prices are higher so the difference short term can be negligible.

Paying for Petrol in the USA

One of the biggest differences that most UK tourists notice when they’re paying for fuel in the USA is that you aren’t able to fill up before paying. There are a number of reasons for this, but primarily it’s because of the number of people who were filling up and then driving off. The usual routine to follow if you’re filling up at the pump in the USA is:
  • Pull up to the pump
  • Head to the cashier inside the service station (or at the night window)
  • Pay for the amount of fuel you believe you’re going to need
  • Head back out and fill up, the pump will normally cut off by itself at the amount you’ve prepaid. If it doesn’t and you go over, you can return to the cashier and pay the extra
  • You can generally pay for fuel with cash, credit card, debit card and sometimes fuel vouchers

Getting the Best Fuel Prices in the USA

There are some excellent price watch sites for fuel prices throughout the US and you can find updated prices on a daily basis dependent on area and individual service stations. You can print these out or simply access them online on your travels. Some of the best sites are:

Always remember that prices in the US are very competitive and you can often find cheaper prices are service stations that are merely a few metres apart. Plan in advance where you’re going to need to refill and try and find the best prices in that area.

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