Average Fuel Buying in U.S. Dropped to 2.8 Transactions a Month Between March 1 & May 31


BOSTON — Demand for fuel has been at record-lows across the nation since the COVID-19 outbreak, new Pay with GasBuddy data reveals.

According to the report — which shares how the top 50 most populous U.S. cities rank in fueling activities during the pandemic at the height of stay-at-home orders — between March 1 to May 31, American consumers made on average 2.8 fuel transactions per month, a drop from the usual 4.5 times per month prior to the outbreak. 

Cities that saw more frequent visits to the gas pump were clustered in the Great Lakes region (five out of the top 10) and Texas (three out of the top 10), while cities with the fewest fuel transactions were centered in California and the East Coast.  

For example, on average a driver in Dallas visited the pump nearly twice as often as one living in Las Vegas between March 1 to May 31. In the same time span, a driver in Birmingham, Ala., bought 31 percent more gasoline than someone in Los Angeles.  

The top 10 cities with the most transactions per person from March 1-May 31 are:

  1. Dallas: 7.2
  2. Chicago: 6.5
  3. Minneapolis: 6.5
  4. Grand Rapids, Mich.: 6.4
  5. Houston: 6.4
  6. Virginia Beach, Va.: 6.4
  7. Cleveland: 6.4
  8. San Antonio: 6.3
  9. Atlanta: 6.3
  10. Cincinnati: 6.3

The top 10 cities with the fewest transactions per person from March 1-May 31 are:

  1. Detroit: 5.2
  2. San Diego: 5 
  3. Sacramento, Calif.: 4.9 
  4. Buffalo, N.Y.: 4.9
  5. San Francisco: 4.9 
  6. Memphis, Tenn.: 4.8
  7. Providence, R.I.: 4.7
  8. Rochester, N.Y.:  4.2 
  9. Las Vegas: 4 
  10. Baltimore: 4

Various factors play a role as to why there were more fueling activities in certain cities than others, including: 

Volatile gas prices: The Great Lakes region saw some of the lowest gas prices in more than a decade. Each day brought a new "record-low" price enticing residents to make frequent visits to their local station to take advantage.

This is further evident when looking at Chicago, which saw the most transactions after Dallas. However, it did not make it to the top 10 as a city that purchased the most volume of gasoline, signaling that consumers were making frequent trips to the pump, but purchasing small amounts, according to GasBuddy.

Local economy: A city like Las Vegas has been ground zero for the American job crisis. With much of its economy dependent on the leisure and hospitality industry, it leaves very little activity in the city when there is no tourism.

The same can be said about Detroit, also on the list of fewest fuel transactions, with the closing of its casinos in March. 

Varying stay-at-home orders: Texas had one of the shortest stay-at-home orders, while California had one the longest and strictest, which are reflected strongly in GasBuddy's fuel transaction data. This played a role in whether people had places to go from commuting to work or visiting friends. 

Boston-based GasBuddy is a travel and navigation app that covers 150,000-plus gas stations in North America, giving drivers 27 ways to save on fuel.