Spring is the time of year when gas prices make their annual march upward, which means many drivers pay a very close look at those prices this time of year.
But if you're not careful these days, you could pay a lot more for gasoline than you expected, if your car requires midgrade or premium gasoline.
Hal Almond drives a Volkswagen, and like many European cars it says "Premium Fuel Only."
Which was fine, until he noticed the price of midgrade and premium gas getting more premium.
10cent price difference ... until recently
"In my entire life I've always thought there was always a 10 cent difference in price between regular and midgrade and midgrade and premium," Almond said.
You know what's he's talking about: Regular at $3.79 typically means midgrade is 10 cents higher at $3.89, with Premium at $3.99.
That's been standard for years.
But almond says recently he's noticed the spread between grades getting wider.
He calls it a hidden price hike.
"They will match the regular price," Almond said. "But if your car takes midgrade or premium, its much higher."
Spread between grades much higher
Many stations, including many Shell stations, now have only the price of regular showing on their new digital signs.
You have to pull up to realize that while regular is $3.71 -- competitive with other nearby stations -- midgrade is $3.86 and premium $4.01, a much wider spread than the old pricing.
The gas station Almond was referring to would not comment, but Shell Oil tells the tech blog CNET that it's premium fuel, V-Power, is costlier than other brands "due to its lower friction and extra cleaning agents."
GasBuddy.com, meantime, says refineries are producing less premium gas nowadays, so the price is up based on supply and demand.
Almond just wishes stations would post all their prices, and says drivers need to be on guard.
What you can do
My advice? If your car suggests premium, check with your handbook, and your dealer's service department, to see if it's required or just recommended.
You may be able to drop down a grade, saving a few cents per gallon, so you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.
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