A handful of gas stations in Hastings are at war over gas prices — and the only clear winner so far is the consumer who easily saves a few bucks filling up.
At least five stations in the city about 30 miles southeast of Minneapolis, including two Holidays, a Kwik Trip, a Speedway and an M&H, were charging $3.39 a gallon Wednesday afternoon, about 55 cents lower than the Twin Cities metro average price per gallon of $3.95.
"This has gone on for the last few weeks. These stations have aggressively been bringing prices down," said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. "It's certainly been an interesting time watching them."
Summer travel season often pushes up gas prices; skyrocketing oil prices have hiked them up even higher in 2022. The cost peaked at $5 per gallon in mid-June nationally. By early August, prices had fallen to less than $4 per gallon on average due to lower oil costs and people driving less.
De Haan said it's the only gas price war going on now in the metro, though a couple of stations are offering $3.49 per gallon in exurban Rockford, Minn., and two others are charging $3.31 in Buffalo, Minn.
None of the companies can afford to go lower, De Haan said, adding that the stations are making a little bit of money, but not much.
"Probably not a whole lot beyond a couple shiny pennies or so," he said.
Motorists are a sensitive bunch, he said, and it's pretty much a requirement to participate in the price war if the stations want to sell any gas at all.
The only way things could change is if one station raises prices and the rest follow suit, he said.
Carol Dettinger of Stillwater stopped by the M&H station to put about 8 gallons of gas in her Honda CRV. She dropped her dog off at the groomers and had lunch at the Hastings VFW with the intention of filling up there, she said.
"Thank you. That's all I can say is, thank you," she said. "I wish other people would have this gas war."
Sherry and Gary Ehret of Red Wing visit the Holiday on Hwy. 61 and Vermillion Street just to take advantage of the low gas prices. When Gary takes his Chevy Silverado truck for a fill-up — the tank holds 25 gallons — they save $10 on gas.
"I think it's great," Sherry Ehret said. "Every station in town does it."
Rich Robinson of Denmark Township saves 20 cents a gallon by driving to Hastings rather than Stillwater or Woodbury for gas, he said as he fueled his black Chevy Impala.
He gets 10 cents a gallon in fuel rewards from shopping at Cub Foods, too, he said, adding to the savings. "I'm glad I live here," he said.
Dave Komay, who drives a pick-up truck with a trailer carrying several lawnmowers, chooses Kwik Trip so he can pay with the credit card from his La Crosse, Wis.-based landscaping company.
"We're from Wisconsin and it's always cheaper right in here," he said.
It doesn't make sense that 15 miles down the road at another Kwik Trip gas is 30 cents more, he said, but he appreciates the competitive pricing.
Mindy Bekker of Hastings also got gas at the Kwik Trip. She estimates she sometimes saves $1 a gallon compared to Minneapolis prices, she said.
"It's really busy around here, I'll tell you that," she said as she put 20 gallons in her Jeep.
The Hastings price war has been on his radar since late June when gas prices collapsed all over, De Haan said.
De Haan noted that if oil prices go up even a bit, the stations may be forced to raise their prices to break even.
For now, though, the prices are low and "they kind of continue to duke it out," he said.
Calls or e-mails to the corporate offices of Holiday, M&H and Kwik Trip were not returned.