Filling up your gas tank in the early morning may be costing you a few extra bucks.

Dan McTeague, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com, said rush-hour gas price increases are common in the industry and are happening in Edmonton.

“It’s common for gas stations to raise the price after midnight on any given evening,” said McTeague. “[They] keep those prices pretty much firm until about maybe one or two o’clock in the afternoon.”

McTeague said the price can change by from two and 10 cents between the morning and evening hours. 

GasBuddy.com data shows gas prices in Edmonton have dropped on average by 7.1 cents compared to last year’s average. (GasBuddy.com)

‘Selling at a loss’

McTeague said the price hike is typically found at independent or chain gas retailers near bigger retail stores.

The overall price structure for selling gasoline leaves a small profit margin, he said. To make money, some stations raise prices in the morning to offset operating costs like taxes, electricity and wages.

“If you’re selling gas at $1.14 [a litre] you’re selling likely at a loss,” said McTeague. “They’re barely keeping their nose above the water line, unless they’re selling a lot of beef jerky.”

A GasBuddy.com heat map shows the Edmonton area has some of the lowest gas prices in Alberta. (GasBuddy.com)

McTeague said smaller gas retailers are also up against box-store chains like Costco and Canadian Tire, who can offer gas at or below cost because they can recuperate with profits elsewhere in the business.

He pointed to an ongoing situation in Toronto, where bigger chains came together earlier this spring to reduce the average difference between their own prices and big box-store retailers.

“[They] said enough is enough with the gas bar shenanigans,” said McTeague. “So [now] in places like Toronto, the difference in prices can never be more than five cents a litre including HST or GST.”

That price differential used to be closer to 12 cents, he said.

“I think that’s likely to happen in Edmonton as early as this summer … where gas stations say we’re going to cut our losses and we will never charge in the morning 10 cents more than we charge in the evening.”

McTeague said if the price gap is reduced, drivers may not be willing to drive to big box-store gas stations to save a few cents.

Though Sarah Letendre hasn’t noticed a variation in price at her usual gas station in Edmonton, she’s not sold on the idea of driving further for cheaper gas.

“For Costco, the lines are always super long, so I just don’t want to take the time to go there,” she said. “It’s a lot of money to spend on gas.”

Fill up at night

McTeague suggested the best time to fill up is in the evening.

“Usually after six or seven o’clock at night you see these big price swings,” he said. “That’s when retailers shave those 10 cent retail margins, getting it down to almost zero by the end of the day.”



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