MODESTO — Slowly but steadily, it's getting less expensive to fill up the tank.
The average statewide price of regular unleaded gasoline fell 15 cents over the past month to $4.02 a gallon, according to the latest gas price survey released this week by AAA.
In Northern California, the average price of $3.95 was down only 4 cents from the March 12 AAA survey. In Ceres, gas can be had for $3.55 at the Arco station at Mitchell and Service roads, while regular unleaded is going for $3.57 per gallon at an Arco and Costco in Turlock. In Modesto, several Arco stations are offering gas for $3.59.
Among all 50 states, California has the second-highest average price, trailing only Hawaii's average of $4.39 a gallon.
"The recent decline has been a product of lower crude oil prices and a now-completed switchover to summer-blend gasoline," said Cynthia Harris, AAA Northern California spokeswoman. "Declining retail gas prices have been the result of an increase in refinery production and economic concerns, which have created less of a demand among consumers."
Prices vary wildly among stations, with some selling fuel for as much as 20 cents a gallon above others. However, according to Consumer Reports, there's no truth to the myth that cheaper gas is lower in quality, because most stations buy their gas from the same suppliers.
Some "brand-name" gasoline includes additives designed to clean the engine, the magazine pointed out, but most cars run just fine on it.
Harris also noted that people aren't using gas like they have in the past, and more are looking into purchasing hybrids as technology has improved and prices have dropped. "Consumers are using less gas than last year," she said. "People are being a lot more diligent about how they spend their money on gas."
But we haven't yet approached the summer driving period, Harris said, and the additional hours of daylight, vacations and weekend trip can send gas prices back up. "Prices always increase during summer months because there's a higher demand," she said. "But we're still cheaper than we were a year ago at this time."
Modesto resident John Baxter is keeping an eye on the pump. In response to a query on The Bee's Facebook page, Baxter wrote that he is wary of the traditional rise in gas prices that comes with the summer months.
If the price stays around $3.60 or so a gallon, Baxter said, he likely will hit the road. "However if the prices hover $4 a gallon, I will remain within 50 miles of Modesto."