YORK — York had the third lowest gas prices in the country for 2013, according to a recently released survey by GasBuddy.com.
Rock Hills prices were seventh nationally and Clovers 19th. Fort Mill prices ranked 98th out of the more than 4,000 communities in the United States and Canada listed in the annual survey.
South Carolinas gas tax third lowest in the nation at 16 cents per gallon was a big factor in the rating as nine of the top 10 locations in the country for cheaper gasoline were in the Palmetto State.
Number one was Duncan in Spartanburg County were the per-gallon average price for 2013 was $3.148
Yorks average price was $3.159: Rock Hills $3.165; Clovers $3.184 and Fort Mills $3.236.
The average price does not include recent prices at the pump which have fallen to about $2.86 per gallon at more than 30 locations in York County.
York Mayor Eddie Lee said his towns No. 3 ranking is not a mystery, its due to fair and open competition. A factor in that competition was Murphy Oils entry into the York market this spring, he said.
Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with Gas Buddy, agrees with Lee.
Prices in York County and near Spartanburg are traditionally lower than other parts of South Carolina because of the aggressive marketing by the likes of sellers such as Quik Trip or Murphy Oil.
Such sellers will keep gas prices lower, hoping to compensate for the price by selling more items at their convenience stores. Kloza said the gross margin for a gallon of gas, excluding the cost of labor and credit card fees, is about 15 cents per gallon.
When one store pushes (the price) lower, others follow, said Angela Vogel Daley, spokeswoman for AAA Carolinas.
Gasoline supply, the time of year and proximity to the pipelines are factors that also affect price, said Kloza and Daley.
Gas prices may rise slightly for the Christmas travel season. AAA Carolinas estimates a record number of South Carolinians 1.3 million will travel 50 miles or more for the Christmas/New Years holiday. That travel volume represents an increase of 22,000 travelers compared to last year. Almost 91 percent of the travelers plan to drive to their destination.
The 12-day Christmas/New Years travel holiday is defined as Saturday through Jan. 1.
After the Christmas/New Years holiday, gas prices should remain stable until early spring when refineries historically shut down for maintenance, Daley said.
But for now, low prices in York mean a change in consumer habits.
Robert Winkle, president of the Greater York Chamber of Commerce, used to wait until he got to Cowpens before filling up when he traveled to see family and friends. Now, he fills up closer to home in York.
Its been cheaper here in the last year, Winkle said.
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066