Damian Dovarganes/AP/File
Costco members fill up with discounted gasoline at a Costco gas station in Van Nuys, Calif., in 2012. Although Costco is known for offering steep savings at the pump, Carlozo says that, depending on your location, you could end up saving more at an alternate gas station.

Costco and gasoline: Are you really saving at the pump?

Costco, the membership-only warehouse club, can offer gasoline for about 6 to 12 cents a gallon below local competitors' prices — but could you be saving more money fueling up somewhere else? Carlozo says yes.

Ah, Costco! The Emporium of Everything, it's the one store that's got you covered from cradle (diapers) to grave (caskets). If you're a regular, you already know that this membership-only warehouse club isn't fazed by the most eclectic shopping list you can muster. But even Costco veterans might still not consider it a go-to locale for gasoline. The fact is that Costco — a chain now some 600 stores large — offers gasoline for about 6 to 12 cents a gallon below its local competitors' prices.

As such, Costco's gas sales have helped the company's bottom line, but how do Costco's gas prices stack up when you hold them under close scrutiny?

Cheap Gas Depends on Location

Much of the answer depends on where your Costco is located. In Chicago, the Lincoln Park Costco charges $4.49 per gallon for 1987 regular gas, according to GasBuddy. But that's no big bargain compared to many gas stations within a 45-minute drive of the place. Why is this?

For starters, Chicago (which has among the highest gas prices in the nation) also has rather high gas taxes within the city limits. So once you cross the border, gas prices drop sharply — a fact of life that applies even as you compare Costco stores to each other. In Bolingbrook, IL, located about 40 minutes southwest of Chicago, the local Costco sells gas for $4.07 a gallon, 32 cents a gallon cheaper than a Bolingbrook-area Shell and BP, located just a stone's throw away.

However, upon comparing gas prices amongst city gas stations, we found little to no fluctuation in price: Chicago's Lincoln Park Costco charges the same for regular as a Clark station just a block away. And gas is only 10 cents a gallon cheaper than at a Citgo station two blocks from there. What's more, we should not forget that filling up at Costco costs less partly because of its membership cost, about $55 per year for a Gold Star membership.

On the West Coast, the local Seattle Costco sells gas at a lower price than here in Chicago, but in general regular gas ranges from $3.75 to $4 a gallon, GasBuddy reports. But Costco prices aren't the cheapest; the Sam's Club at 13550 Aurora Ave. N. is. There, a gallon of gas sets back motorists $3.75 a gallon; the Costco at 4401 4th Ave. S. ranks as the sixth cheapest in town, at $3.79 a gallon. So while Costco is clearly a bargain, its prices lag behind a competing warehouse club store, four ARCO stations, and a Safeway.

Should You Buy Costco Gas?

There's no question that your local Costco will often offer the lowest gas prices in the immediate area, but there are likely other deals in town. For example, many supermarkets are offering per-gallon discounts on a particular brand of gas based on what you spend on groceries. For every $50 I spend at Jewel stores through the free My Jewel Rewards card, I save 5 cents a gallon at area Shell stations. So after a big shop, I fill up in Chicago's suburbs and usually save 40 cents a gallon off what I'd pay in the city, no matter who's selling the gas. The price will beat my local Costco every single time (though perhaps not a Costco in a far-flung suburb).

In general, if you're an all-around savvy shopper you should approach every gas run as strategically as any other shopping you do. First consult GassBuddy to find the least-expensive gas prices around and plan on filling up at a time and place where you know you'll be by cheap fuel. Also by using grocery-chain gas discounts wherever you can snag them, you'll be able to save larger increments of cash at the pump.

Lou Carlozo is a contributor to dealnews.com, where this article first appeared.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Costco and gasoline: Are you really saving at the pump?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today