Gas Buying Habits During the Pandemic

A new GasBuddy survey reveals which U.S. cities filled up the most during the COVID-19 crisis.

June 17, 2020

BOSTON—On average, a person in Dallas visited the pump nearly twice as often as one living in Las Vegas between March 1 to May 31, 2020. In the same time span, a person in Birmingham, Ala., bought 31% more gasoline than someone in Los Angeles.

A lot can be learned about a city by looking at what’s happening at its gas stations. A new GasBuddy survey shows how the top 50 most populous U.S. cities rank in fueling activities during a pandemic at the height of stay-at-home orders. Demand for fuel has been at record lows across the nation since the COVID-19 outbreak. According to Pay with GasBuddy data between March 1 and May 31, American consumers made on average 2.8 fuel transactions per month, a drop from the usual 4.5 times per month prior to the outbreak.

Cities that saw more frequent visits to the gas pump were clustered in the Great Lakes region, five out of the top 10, and Texas, three out of the top 10. Meanwhile cities with the fewest fuel transactions were centered in California and the East Coast. Dallas topped the list with the most transactions per person (7.2), while Baltimore had the fewest transactions per person (4). Making the most transactions per person list after Dallas are Chicago; Minneapolis; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Houston; Virginia Beach, Va.; Cleveland; San Antonio; Atlanta; and Cincinnati. Other cities on the fewest transactions per person list after Baltimore are Las Vegas; Rochester, N.Y.; Providence, R.I.; Memphis, Tenn.; San Francisco; Buffalo, N.Y.; Sacramento, Calif.; San Diego; and Detroit.

Playing into the rankings were volatile gas prices in the Great Lakes region, which registered some of the lowest gas prices in more than a decade. Each day brought a new record-low price, enticing residents to make frequent visits to their local station to take advantage. This is further evident when looking at Chicago. The Windy City saw the most transactions after Dallas, however, it didn’t make it to the top 10 as a city that purchased the most volume of gasoline. This signals that people were making frequent trips to the pump but purchasing small amounts.

A city like Las Vegas has been ground zero for the American job crisis. With much of its economy dependent on the leisure and hospitality industry, it leaves very little activity in the city when there is no tourism. The same can be said about Detroit, with the closing of its casinos in March. 

Finally, the varying stay-at-home orders also contributed to fueling up. Texas had one of the shortest stay-at-home orders, while California had one of the longest and strictest, which are reflected strongly in GasBuddy’s fuel transaction data. This played a role in whether people had places to go from commuting to work or visiting friends. 

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.

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