Gas prices in northern Beaufort County are 20 to 30 cents higher than in Bluffton and parts of Hilton Head Island, and the difference is starting to irritate some people.
"The question is becoming, how far are we willing to go to get gas to avoid being ripped off?" Dataw Island resident Bob Hopkins said.
AAA Carolinas does not track gas prices in the Beaufort and Hilton Head Island area, but spokeswoman Angela Vogel Daley pointed to websites such as GasBuddy.com, which is updated by residents, as an indicator of the price difference.
The gap is substantial in some cases. The lowest price Monday night in Bluffton was $3.27, but at a gas station in Port Royal gas is $3.64 per gallon.
Overall, gas prices in Bluffton are between $3.35 and $3.44, according to GasBuddy. Beaufort prices are between $3.44 and $3.63. In Ridgeland and Yemassee, the range is $3.72 to $3.82.
Why the price ticks up as people drive north -- and why those prices are remaining high -- is a reflection of the market, Vogel Daley said.
"It's just natural competition, and the retail prices are based on what they expect their next shipment to be," she said.
Distribution can affect prices a bit, and AAA typically notices that gas prices are slightly higher in areas that are not as easy to get to or close to major population centers, such as the mountains, she said.
Most owners and managers of Beaufort-area gas stations did not return phone calls seeking comments on how they price gas, but Nick Desai, manager of the BP station at 2473 Boundary St., said its prices are based on how much the gas costs from suppliers, not on competition.
It's not clear when those in northern Beaufort County might get relief at the pump.
"If all the gas stations in an area are paying that much and people don't really have an alternative, they might keep them there a while, unless they know their next shipment might be less," Vogel Daley said.
South Carolina levies a 16.75-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline, and the federal government levies an 18.4-cent-per-gallon tax. No Beaufort County municipalities levy a tax on gasoline.
As of today, AAA Carolinas reports the average price of a gallon of fuel is $3.41 in South Carolina. Charleston is averaging $3.47; Columbia is averaging $3.40; Greenville-Spartenburg-Anderson is averaging $3.35; and Myrtle Beach is at $3.39.
But some residents like Hopkins say they're taking matters into their own hands. He's driving an extra 12 miles to fill up his tank for about 20 cents less in Callawassie.
"Somehow, the gas stations in Beaufort have decided that their profits are more important than the residents," he said. "We need for someone to know this is not the right way to treat the community."
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