Disparity in regional cost differences between grades of gasoline (US)

The current thread on $1.99 gasoline reminded me of a question I’ve been meaning to ask.

When I lived in LA, it was always fairly reliable that no matter what stations were charging for the lowest-available octane, as you moved up to the next-available grade, it would cost about 10 cents more. Possibly slightly more, but not much. And when I’d gone on road trips, I don’t recall noticing anything different than that formula, even in places where the available octanes weren’t the same.

However, since I’ve moved to the DC area, I’ve noticed that in my part of Maryland (and what little I’ve observed in Virginia, as well), there’s a relatively HUGE disparity between the lowest grade and the mid-grade, and sometimes a similar disparity going from there to the premium grade.

For example, using gasbuddy.com to look at the prices for the station I frequented closest to my last residence in LA, I find this:
[li]Low-grade (Regular): $3.15[/li][li]Mid-grade: $3.25[/li][li]Premium: $3.35[/li][/ul]
However, when I look at prices for the station closest to my house in Maryland, I find this:
[li]Low-grade (Regular): $1.99[/li][li]Mid-grade: $2.49[/li][li]Premium: $2.79[/li][/ul]
So, instead of a normal (to me) 10-cent jump at all levels, we get a 50-cent jump followed by a 30-cent jump. And as I mentioned, every other station I’ve seen in the area shows similar jumps. Why is it so different here? Even accounting for different states using different octanes doesn’t explain that much of a difference. Are the various octanes taxed differently here than in other parts of the country?

And, more broadly, what kind of cost differences between grades are you used to seeing where you live?

California has a lot of taxes on their gas at the pump as well as restrictions on formulations that other hidden fees that drive the prices up there as opposed to the rest of the nation. Most regional variations have to do with what the state gas tax is as well as other factors.

I don’t know if this is what’s going on where you are, but around here a lot of stations are doing non-ethanol premium. It costs more because the alternative octane boost and oxygenation chemicals are more expensive, but people are willing to pay extra because it gives better fuel economy and avoids the (IMHO somewhat exaggerated) problems with ethanol in lawnmowers, boats, old cars, motorcycles, etc. You don’t see it in California, though, because the major alternative to ethanol is banned there.

Slight aside…if your car manufacturer doesn’t require a premium octane fuel, there’s really no reason use anything other than 87. Plus levels are just marketing ploys to charge you for higher octane gas.

Of course, an alternative theory is that a person driving the fancy premium-required car they paid an extra $30k for halfway across town to save $2 on gas is something very much in keeping with the whole Southern California ethos. So maybe there’s more price pressure on premium gas there. :slight_smile:

Actually, that’s useful to know, because my outboards have totally non-exaggerated issues with ethanol and I’m getting increasingly tired of sitting in sailboats on a windless day fruitlessly yanking on pull starters; episodes which are followed by evenings in the garage cleaning gunk out of carburetors.

In Central Florida the “10 cents up per grade” rule is almost universally true. Note that most stations don’t sell 91-octane fuel here; we get 87, 89 and 93.