Why Gas Prices are Always Moving Up and Down

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It's like playing the lottery. How much will you save on gasoline today? It depends on who you ask. Retailers say prices fluctuate with supply and demand. But those who monitor prices say it's competition.

Michigan drivers are used to the price fluctuations. But most, don't like it. Scott Everts says, "It's crazy. It's ridiculous. You shouldn't have to worry about which day you're going to get gas. The price that they put in the tank shouldn't make any difference to what the consumer pays."

On Tuesday, drivers in Lansing had to pay about 20 cents more than the national average for a gallon of gas. Prices spike up and down much like a rollercoaster. GasBuddy.com tracks prices across the nation. Experts say its typical to see prices go up and down during the week in the Great Lakes Region. Retailers say the fluctuations are a result of supply and demand. They say the price goes down at the beginning of the week when fewer people are buying gas, and then shoots back up toward the end of the week when more people are thinking about filling up for the weekend. Mark Griffin, President of the Michigan Petroleum Association says, "Retailers, they chase the customer. They try to incenticize the customer to come and buy gas in their location. When the demand for gasoline is low, they put gasoline on sale."

Patrick DeHaan, Analyst for GasBuddy.com says the prices are less about chasing customers, and more about competition. "Stations undercut each other day after day until stations are at a point where they're no longer making money. One station then raises its price, and then everybody follows." DeHaan says it doesn't matter what day of the week it is. "Its just more to do with where stations are at that day when they're no longer making money. Some days it can be Wednesday, some days it can be Monday."

Driver Toney Casey says he doesn't try to keep track of the ups and downs. "I have to get it anyway, so I don't pay that much attention to it. I try to find the deal where I can get the deal."

Experts at GasBuddy.com say the prices are predictable. They say you can follow them online, and sign up for price spike alerts.