What’s causing the difference in gas price in the St. Louis Area?

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ARNOLD, MO (KPLR) – The extreme drop in gas prices over the past few weeks has been well documented, with average prices falling more than a quarter a gallon across the area.  But now, a very noticeable disparity is developing between different parts of St. Louis and the prices they are paying.

For most drivers, paying below $2 a gallon is something they never thought they’d see again.

“It’s been years.  I can’t even remember the last time,” driver Dave Canella said as he filled up Monday afternoon.

But the $1.93 average along the Page Avenue corridor that he was paying is well out of step compared to other areas of town.

“It don’t seem like it should be like that,” another driver, Tim Fouch told us. “All I know is typically I was paying over a hundred dollars to fill my tank.  Now I’m paying 90.   I was paying 120 to fill my tank, now I’m paying 90.”

That attitude may be part of why there is such a difference.   Experts say people simply aren’t shopping prices the way they normally would.

“They remember what they paid the last time they filled up,” UMSL Business School Dean Keith Womer said. “They notice it’s a dime or 20 cents or maybe 50 cents less than they paid last time and they say to themselves, that’s a good deal.  I’m not gonna search all over town.”

And the result has led to some wild differences.  The area of Page Ave. between Interstates 270 and 170 sits at an average of about $1.93 according to figures on gasbuddy.com Monday morning.  They’re paying the same low price along St. Charles Rock Road in North County.

But a trip south on Lindbergh, just ten minutes away, can lead to a 36 cent jump in price per gallon in some spots.  Lindbergh between Ladue Rd. and Interstate 44 has an average price of $2.23 a gallon.  In many spots it’s at $2.29.

Going further south you’ll find a price in the middle.  Lemay Ferry between Lindbergh and Highway 141 has an average of $2.12 per gallon according to gasbuddy.com.

In the city, Natural Bridge between Goodfellow and Grand sits at about $2.08 per gallon, while the Grand Avenue corridor in south city, between Interstate 44 and Gravois, was higher, at $2.24 per gallon Monday morning.

Dr. Womer says all the disparity has a number of reasons, most notably the fact that no one is forcing gas stations in the more expensive areas to fall into line with the lower priced areas.

“That gives station owners the opportunity for a very nice profit margin,” he said.  “If they’re still getting customers at two and a quarter, there’s not a lot of motivation to lower that price.  And so until they see that they’re losing customers to somebody, maybe across town, there’s not motivation to lower that price.”

If you’d like to see what prices look like in your specific area, go to our gas tracker.