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Drivers accelerate search for ways to save at the pump

June 23, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

What we ran Sunday:



o Next time you're on Interstate 81 in your 1996 sedan griping about getting only 22 mpg, think about Randy Winebrenner's 2006 Volvo tractor-trailer in the next lane over. The best in his fleet of 10 big rigs, the Volvo gets just 5 mpg on a good day.

o Pinching pennies is paying off for D.M. Bowman Inc. as the big trucking company rolls on amid rising diesel fuel prices.

o So why does diesel cost more?




WASHINGTON COUNTY - On Friday, the average price for regular gasoline in Hagerstown was $4.01 per gallon, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

That amount is more than $1 above what gas cost at this time last year.

While there's not much the average person can do to bring down the cost of gasoline, people are accelerating their search for ways to save a few cents when they fill up at the pump.

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Some Hagerstown-area drivers have registered on Web sites such as GasBuddy.com and GasPriceWatch.com, which rely on volunteers to report the lowest gas prices in areas across the country.

The sites are searchable by ZIP code or city.

"We offer people a place to tell each other where to get the best deals, which, in the state we're in with gas prices, is really helpful right now," said Jason Toews, co-founder of GasBuddy.com.

GasBuddy links to local Web sites that provide gas prices for states or cities. Type "Hagerstown, Md." in the search box, for example, and you will be sent to MarylandGasPrices.com, which on Friday afternoon showed the cheapest price in Hagerstown as $3.93 per gallon at the AC&T on Wesel Boulevard.

The site's 1.5 million registered users constantly update the prices. If prices at a particular station aren't updated within 24 to 48 hours, they are generally dropped from the site, Toews said.

"Most of the time, anything from yesterday is outdated," Toews said.

Other Web sites, such as Fuelmeup.com and Mapquest.com, offer similar services.

Cash reward

Although it's not posted on any Web sites, drivers who fill up in and around Cearfoss have found a deal at Your Country Store on Fairview Road.

The convenience store and gas station is offering a discount of 4 cents per gallon to customers who pay for fill-ups with cash instead of credit cards.

The reason? Like many gasoline retailers, Your Country Store is feeling the pinch of rising credit card processing fees.

Every time a customer uses a credit card, the store has to pay a processing fee of about 2 percent to the credit card company, owner Steven Leach said.

Because those fees are levied as a percentage of the total purchase, they rise with the cost of gasoline.

"The cash discount benefits our customers and it benefits us, too," Leach said.

On Friday, the cash discount dropped the price of a gallon of regular gasoline from $3.99 to $3.95.

John Hammond of Maugansville, who was filling up his Ford F-150 at Your Country Store Friday morning, said he usually gets gas at Your Country Store or Sheetz at Huyetts Crossroads.

"For 15 gallons I'm saving 60 cents. It's not a lot, but it's enough," Hammond said.

Going public

Other people are turning to public transportation as a way to save gas money.

County Commuter Director Kevin D. Cerrone said the countywide bus system has experienced a 7 percent increase in ridership this fiscal year.

Ridership on the transit system normally increases by 2 percent to 3 percent per year, Cerrone said.

While he said the reason for the increase is hard to quantify, comments from riders make him think the price of gas has contributed to increased ridership.

"We get calls from people asking for route information complaining that gas is too high to drive anymore," Cerrone said. "I think it's a big reason for the increase."

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