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Why do gas prices vary by county across the Finger Lakes?

Have you noticed gas price differences between towns as you’re driving around the region?

Gas price discrepancies are common, and sometimes extreme, as has been recently documented between Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca, and the communities between them. This issue was investigated by News10NBC in Rochester after a viewer sent in the question.

For example, gas prices vary by as much as 50 cents across the region. While it’s as low as $3.02 in parts of Monroe County, it’s upwards of $3.70 in Geneva. In Auburn, gas prices are between $3.20 and $3.35 per gallon.

However, the variation doesn’t always correlate with distance traveled. In one community we searched, there were multiple gas stations within 1-mile of each other that had the following prices for a gallon of unleaded gas: $3.73, $3.89, $3.11, $3.13, and $3.11.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

AAA told News10NBC that multiple factors contribute to these regional price variations. Key elements influencing gas prices include the availability of gas, delivery costs, operational expenses, and local taxes. For instance, accessibility issues such as severe weather can disrupt roads and affect wholesale prices. Delivery costs also play a crucial role; gas stations nearer to refineries or major highways like the Thruway incur lower delivery expenses compared to those situated further away. Operational costs, encompassing employee wages and pump maintenance, and local taxes based on the station’s location, further impact the price at the pump.

Because these factors cannot be made uniform across a spectrum of private businesses, prices rarely fall in line at the same time.