Coronado 76 Gas Station
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Here’s one list a small business may not want to be on: the highest price gas in San Diego County.

With global demand for oil decreasing, and U.S. production increasing, gas prices are falling daily. Yet three county gas stations, according to gasbuddy.com, remain the highest cash price per gallon for regular gas. One would expect these stations to be in the outskirts, like Borrego Springs or Jacumba. Not so.

The Shell station at 3105 Del Mar Heights Road, just off I-5, has been number one on the list for weeks. On December 22, it was $3.50 a gallon, 64 cents higher then 7-Eleven just across the freeway interchange, $1.12 higher than county’s lowest — $2.38 — found at five of the county’s 11 Costcos.

I asked a guy pumping gas in his work truck from the Extreme Roofing company, why he was buying gas from the highest priced station in the county? “I noticed it was a little high,” he said. He had made a wrong turn off the freeway and was running out. He had planned to go to the 7-Eleven.

Masoud, the manager of the Shell, seemed surprised to learn he was the highest priced. He responded, “We have the highest priced rent in the county. $22,000 a month.” Also servicing the exclusive Del Mar Heights neighborhood was the 7-Eleven and, two blocks away, a Chevron station in the Del Mar Highlands shopping center posted at $2.82.

On December 20, holding the number two and three highest priced spots for over a week, were the two stations on Coronado. I visited both Valero and 76 on Orange Avenue, then both listed at $3.30 a gallon. An employee of the 76 Station, when ask why they are on top of the list, said, ”Because we’re special.” He would not elaborate nor provide information on how to reach the owner for comment. The Coronado Valero station employee said they don’t set the prices, the oil company does.

All three top-priced stations had one thing in common. They have mechanics working on cars. Shell’s Masoud said stations make more having a convenience store, rather than have a garage. “So our prices have to be higher,’ said Masoud. “But we provide the best in service and clean restrooms,” he added.

I asked five customers pumping gas in Coronado — four at Valero and one at the 76 — as to why they were buying high-priced gas. All five were tourists from out of town. To talk to Coronado locals, I went to the Vons store in town. Neil said locals don’t buy gas in town. He thought the stations we’re “spot zoned” by the distributors, a process where the price of fuel is micromanaged based on the nearby competition.

Marilyn said the high prices were because of the Coronado Bridge. Gas trucks aren’t allowed over the bridge and must deliver through Imperial Beach and up The Strand (Highway 75). Both said they buy their gas at Costco when they go into town.

Something else gasbuddy.com has shown — members of the military might want to buy their gas off base, rather than through the base exchanges, which are supposed to be cheaper than the retail market. For about a week leading up to December 20, the base exchange stations were much higher than all Costcos and some independents. With gas prices in an unprecedented free-fall, the base’s prices finally adjusted to within a few cents of off-base, lower-cost stations.

Perhaps because of the AAA report that, due to lowing gas prices, 98.6 million people will drive to holiday destinations this year (four percent more than last year). But the gas price free-fall may be temporarily over, at least until January 5. Gasbuddy.com sent out a text alert to its followers in North County on the evening of December 21. It read, “It appears gas prices may be raising in your area.“

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Comments

AlexClarke Dec. 22, 2014 @ 4:36 p.m.

The prices at these gas stations are high because there are enough stupid people willing to pay the price. Everything they say to justify the high price is just horse feathers. If the lazy rich and the stupid consumers would stop buying their overpriced gas the prices would come down.

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Visduh Dec. 22, 2014 @ 8:04 p.m.

"Masoud" was surprised because he seldom has to know what the other guy's price is. He gets his price from the clientele in the area, those who couldn't tell you within a dollar a gallon just what the price of petrol is. They have no economic restraints and just pull in and pay whatever the pump shows. And so it goes in Del Mar and the Highlands and the Carmel Valley (which is mostly a mesa.)

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xians421 Dec. 22, 2014 @ 8:24 p.m.

Gas sold on base has no State or federal tax included. It should be about 50 cents cheaper but these private vendors are ripping off the people that least deserve it.

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Ken Harrison Dec. 23, 2014 @ 4:25 a.m.

Good point. I was going mention that angle as well but wasn't sure if true or not. I know it used to be a long time ago. Same is true, I believe, for indian casinos and their gas. Base exchanges were supposed to be to provide goods and services at reduced cost because military personal were stuck on bases away from towns. Now in the world of Costco's everywhere???? How many millions in sales tax is not received from base exchanges because of purchases at the same or higher price as the private sector stores? Maybe there a news story there?

None

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Ponzi Dec. 23, 2014 @ 9:10 a.m.

That Shell has had the highest price gas in Sn Diego for at least a decade. I’ve had my BBQ grill propane tanks filled at the Del Mar Shell station because it’s nearby and (oddly or not) its propane prices are competitive with other vendors.

But I wondered about why anyone would buy gas there and this is my theory. That Del Mar Shell station is one of the most convenient stops for gas heading north from both I-5 and I-805. It has a sign on the hill that is visible from the freeway a mile south. By the time drivers reach Del Mar Heights they have probably suffered through several miles of stop-and-go traffic at “the merge.” Comparable access to gas is found further south; the Mobil and Chevron at Washington Street, the Shell gas stations at Old Town and Morena (at Sea World Dr.) From that point north, locals at least, know better than to venture off the freeway into the congested interchanges of Pacific Beach, University City, Sorrento Valley, or Carmel Valley Road. (Although there is a Shell station on Carmel Valley Rd., the traffic during rush hours is horrible). Drivers heading north on I-805 also face the same congestion at Friars Road, through Kearny Mesa and Mira Mesa.

The Del Mar Shell station is all about convenience. There is no quicker way to get off I-5, gas up and get back on I-5 north with one simple U-turn.

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Visduh Dec. 23, 2014 @ 9:43 a.m.

We've all noticed that gasoline prices close to the freeways are uniformly higher than a few blocks away. That is due to the convenience factor you mention. There's another factor at work with some stations, and that's the expense account driver who has a rental car, or his/hr own car, but puts fuel on the employer's card. They seldom care a bit about the price. Oh, and one other factor is that the few Shell stations I see normally are higher than the other guys, often higher than even Chevron.

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Ponzi Dec. 23, 2014 @ 3:04 p.m.

Not to beat the subject to death, but are there also "fleet" programs for large companies and government agencies? Like SDG&E, CHP and such must have a company/govt. card to purchase gas at specific contracted stations.

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Ken Harrison Dec. 24, 2014 @ 7:16 a.m.

Good point. I have reported before that Chevron - overall - is the highest priced gas. However there are more and more Shell's popping up, we've got two across the street from one another at Leucadia Blvd. @ El Camino Real. It seems Shell is positioning itself, because there are so many up and down the price spectrum, to take the highest price crown.

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Ken Harrison Dec. 27, 2014 @ 8:21 a.m.

Story update - Looks like the Valero in Coronado succumbed to "Media Pressure" (I'm inflating my value) and lowered their price by 10 cents. The other two stations mentioned have not, as of yesterday.

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