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Gas prices continue to rise throughout Southern California

March 31, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
As we head into the travel season, gasoline prices are still rising.

Here's what you can expect to pay for regular gas per gallon as of Thursday:

  • Los Angeles County: $4.60

  • Orange County: $4.04

  • Inland Empire: $4.03

  • Ventura County: $4.05

You need some gas, you see the sign, and the price looks appealing. But if you're looking for deals, be careful. Some people are getting frustrated when they realize the price on the sign isn't always what they're being charged at the pump.

"In the little, fine print, it says cash only," said Jamie Court from consumerwatchdog.org Santa Monica. "And when you put your credit card in the pump you find out you paid 10 cents more a gallon in some cases. This is a bait and switch that is all too prevalent."

Court said most big-name gas stations charge the same regardless of how you pay. But other, lesser-known chains are preying on consumers who aren't paying very close attention.

"It's kind of crappy," said Sherman Oaks resident Justin Davidson. "It gets everyone to stop and when they're already at the pump and they get their thing in, it's sort of like, oh well, forget it."

Not all stations offering cash discounts are involved in trickery. Consumer watchdog groups want a state law that requires cash and credit prices to be very clearly marked, like at the Valero station in Sherman Oaks. The owner here says he wants happy customers, not confused and angry ones.

"We want to be honest with public," said station owner Ned Sakharian. "Whether they see it from afar, they can see and appreciate that. That's why I have steady customers."

"That's why you have to look at the signs," said Stacy Schupan from Sherman Oaks. "You have to read."

But when it comes to gas pricing, Court also points a finger at cash-only Arco. These stations don't accept credit cards and their prices are usually lower because of that. But Court said using a debit card there could wipe out much, if not all, of that discount.

"You think you're getting that cash price," said Court. "And you're banks charging you 45 cents for using that debit card."

Another piece of advice is to not buy gas on a really hot day. The consumer watchdog group said that fuel expands, but pumps in California don't take that into account. That means you are getting less gas when you fill up your tank on a day when the temperature is over 60 degrees.