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Visiting California - info on gas

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Bratislava, Slovakia
posts: 15
Visiting California - info on gas

Hi everybody,

I am from Europe, I am visiting West Coast this May for 2 weeks and I will travel around by a rental car from Los Angeles to San Francisco (via Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and Yosemite Valley).

I have already done a plenty of research on various topics, so that I am as much familiar with what is ahead of me as possible, but still I would like a little advice on refilling the gas.

If you could answer these questions, that would be great:

1) Do you need to pay first and then fill in the gas, or the other way around? (I suppose both options are used and it depends on the station, but still – what is used more, etc?)

2) If you pay first, does the nozzle stop when you reach the prepaid amount, or it allows you to fill in more and you have to pay the difference afterwards?

3) Are there more stations with self-service payment terminals, or more of those where you go inside to see the cashier?

4) Do the stations usually accept debit cards?

Also, if there is anything else you think I should know, feel free to share!

I know that gas is usually more expensive in the big cities, I have also downloaded the GasBuddy app, so this should make looking for gas at an adequate price smoother.

Oh, and one more thing:

When searching for a rental car at Avis, they show the car’s features, e.g. the number of bags you can fit in the trunk etc. and there is something with fuel that I don’t understand, usually the numbers are like 24/35, or 28/48… what are these? I have a hunch that it has something to do with the car’s consumption, but I have no clue how to read that.

Thanks a lot to everybody!

Thousand Oaks...
Destination Expert
for Israel
posts: 8,826
reviews: 13
1. Re: Visiting California - info on gas

Welcome to California.....

1. MOST places require you to pay first then fuel up.

2. The flow ceases at the pre-paid amount.

3. MOST stations have both options. You can fuel without anyone helping you or you can ask a cashier for help.

4. MOST, if not all, stations accept a debit card.

Your assumption of fuel prices in big cities is incorrect. Generally the fuel prices skyrocket in places in and around the national parks, such as the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. Plan accordingly.

The numbers you read have to do with fuel consumption. The lower number is the MILES PER GALLON used by the car (MPG) on city driving and the higher number is for Highway driving.

Dr. Z

Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
posts: 39,525
reviews: 74
2. Re: Visiting California - info on gas

24/35 = 24 miles per gallon city driving / 35 miles per gallon highway driving. In reality, I'd expect a car rated 24/35 to get something close to 28 or 30 mpg overall.

1) pay first

2) if you've paid cash, then the pump will stop when you get to that dollar amount.

3) Most places have pre-pay terminals at the pump, but there is also a person inside. I think many locals use either their debit or credit card in the machine outside, pump the fuel, get the receipt, and drive away. Note that using a credit card requires you to enter your 5 digit US Zip code; you won't have a zip code, so you probably can't use this option.

Here is some info from an older thread: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g1-i12567-k3842307 Pay close attention to the suggestions from Tet14 in Reply 3; he's a frequent US visitor and pumps hundreds of gallons of gasoline during his visits. He really helps our economy!

4) yes

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 22,874
reviews: 114
3. Re: Visiting California - info on gas

Dr. Z has given you all the answers. Just one point Some Gas stations offer you two prices. cash or credit. The cash price is a few cents cheaper. I would still recommend using your credit or debit card and not carrying loads and loads of cash but if you say have 100 on you, you may save say 3-5 cents per gallon

On your drive though CA and the west, you may see higher prices in the remote areas as Dr Z mentioned so it won't always be the case that city gas prices will be higher in your case.

Also you may have to use the cashier for your credit card. Debit cards may work as you have to enter your pin. Please make sure your debit card has a MasterCard or Visa logo on it

One can rent a green car which is a hybrid like a Prius. (Avis has them) but they are more expensive in some cases to rent

Edited: 2:17 pm, January 17, 2013
Fortaleza, CE
posts: 7,520
reviews: 360
4. Re: Visiting California - info on gas

If you pay inside first, then the pump does shut off when you reach that amount, but if you want to be able to pump as much as possible (i.e., to fill the tank and you don'tknow how much), just give more than enough money, and you'll get back what you don't use. If you pay by credit or debit card at the pump, the pump shuts off when it senses a full tank. If you don't want to fill the tank, stop it on your own. There may be ways to set an amount in advance from the outside (attendants can do it places where they must pump the gas and you can't do it yourself-- such as in Oregon and New Jersey).

Edited: 2:19 pm, January 17, 2013
Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,868
reviews: 3
5. Re: Visiting California - info on gas

I won't use a debit card at the gas pump, since thieves can attach scanning devices and get your bank account info and drain your bank account. It can take months to get your money back.

At least with a credit card you can dispute the charges and you won't rack up interest charges while the CC company verifies your claim.

Also, not sure a foreign debit card will work in the U.S.

Edited: 2:59 pm, January 17, 2013
So Cal
posts: 3,107
reviews: 64
6. Re: Visiting California - info on gas

A couple other things to add:

- Arco stations tend to be quite a bit cheaper than the other big stations, but take only cash or debit outside. (Like Kibblesmom, I avoid using debit cards, for the same reason.)

- I don't know what gas choices you have at home; here, we have regular (87 octane), mid (88-90) and premium (91+). Your rental will almost certainly need only regular; unless the vehicle specifies that it *requires* premium, don't bother with it. Premium costs 10-20c/gallon more, and doesn't do anything extra for a regular vehicle.

Enjoy your drive!

Bratislava, Slovakia
posts: 15
7. Re: Visiting California - info on gas

Thank you for all your answers and tips.

Kibblesmom: Yes, foreign debit cards work in the U.S., I have used them already, I just wasn't sure about gas stations.

Jenazz: I am a bit surprised about the types of gas - in Europe we have something you would call regular (it is called "normal" here) and it is 95 octane. Then we have another one, the one you would call premium (we call it "super") and it is 98 octane. In the past we had a 91 octane as well, but it was considered weak and only for the old cars. Nowadays, you don't get it anywhere.

Encinitas...
Destination Expert
for Zion National Park, Joshua Tree National Park
posts: 12,984
reviews: 9
8. Re: Visiting California - info on gas

If you drive from LA to the Grand Canyon, don't fill up in Needles. Wait until you cross the Colorado River into Arizona, its much cheaper.

San Jose
Destination Expert
for California
posts: 9,555
reviews: 77
9. Re: Visiting California - info on gas

"I won't use a debit card at the gas pump, since thieves can attach scanning devices and get your bank account info and drain your bank account. It can take months to get your money back. "

Actually, while it may take months for the bank to finalize its investigation, if you are a customer in good standing, the bank will provisionally return your money within a day or two. You go on with your business as usual. You will probably have to fill out a couple forms, but nothing major. All the investigation happens in the background. If someone has this happen and their bank doesn't offer to provisionally put the money back, the customer should insist.

10. Re: Visiting California - info on gas

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