The Cost of a Gallon of Gasoline: Reality Check

by Bill Chameides | June 18th, 2012
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

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Gas prices have fallen in recent days, but the pain at the pump remains. But how painful is it really when compared to other routine purchases?

Just how expensive is expensive?

A gallon of gasoline. Folks are unhappy it’s gotten so expensive. It’s even become a presidential campaign issue.

In the past few days, gas has gotten cheaper, but it’s not cheap enough for most Americans.

But just how expensive is gasoline?

Consider the price of some other liquids we American consumers are
wont to buy.

Product Brand/Size Price Dollars/Gallon
Gasoline (Average price)    –    3.40
Bottled water Lowes – 1-gallon jug    –    1.29
Milk Lowes – 1-gallon jug    –    3.99
Orange juice Tropicana Pure – 1-gallon jug    –    6.99
Bottled water Fiji – 1 liter  2.19    8.30
Bottled water Aquafina – 20 ounces  1.69  10.83
Cup of coffee Joe Van Gogh – 12 ounces  1.58  16.85
Cup of coffee Starbucks – 12 ounces  1.77  18.88

Now consider the fact that that gallon of gasoline we’re paying $3.40 for was pumped out of the ground, shipped by pipeline or tanker, refined, and eventually trucked to local gas stations with profits made at every step in the process — and with the major oil companies realizing some of the largest profits ever. (See here and here.)

Also consider that that gallon of gas is cheaper than a bottle of water. Water for which many of us blithely plunk down our hard earned cash — even though it can be just as easily, cleanly, and more cheaply obtained from our taps — all the while complaining about the high prices at the pump.



Drink prices from Lowes Food and Sheetz in Mebane, North Carolina, June 17, 2012, except for the coffee priced at Joe Van Gogh in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and at Starbucks. Average gas price in Durham, North Carolina, from from on Friday June 15, 2012. Check out yours at’s interactive map.

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