It’s a time-honored Charlotte tradition to drive over the South Carolina border to score cheap gasoline. But it turns out that in some cases, less expensive fuel might be just a few miles away.
The Agenda analyzed gas prices in each Charlotte ZIP code over the course of six months. The data showed some clear patterns.
The Midtown area consistently had the highest gas prices in the city, often 8 or 9 cents per gallon above the citywide average and occasionally as much as 20 cents more expensive than Charlotte’s cheapest gas.
The affluent Myers Park and Dilworth neighborhoods were close behind in price. Then, curiously, Mountain Island Lake.
Want to find cheap gas? You’ll have to head out to the interstate. ZIP codes with cheaper gas tend to cluster around major thoroughfares: I-85, Independence Boulevard, I-485.
Click around the map below to take a look at the average price over six months. Data comes from GasBuddy, an online repository of user-submitted gasoline data.
What’s going on here?
ZIP codes with higher prices have a few things in common: They’re affluent, commuter-centric and congested. Stations in these areas tend to have to pay higher prices for the real estate — and make up for it in gas prices.
Take Midtown. It has only two gas stations, and both are at high traffic intersections for commuters heading into Uptown. If you’re on your way to work, these might be your only options.
Dilworth also has only two gas stations along commuter paths. At least while you’re paying top dollar for gasoline at one of them, you can get the city’s best fried chicken.
ZIP codes with cheaper gas are often influenced by discounters like Costco filling stations or Speedway. These types of places don’t have branded gasoline, which can cost more.
They’re along major highways and they also tend to have more competition. One of Charlotte’s cheapest ZIP codes has 15 stations.
In southeast Charlotte, a Murphy USA location just outside of a Walmart Supercenter offers gas much cheaper than most other stations in the city. That’s something Murphy is known for. The company buys unbranded gasoline at cheaper prices and sells it outside Walmart locations — making up the difference in volume and convenience store products.