Here’s How Much You Actually Save Buying Gas at Costco (2024)

Meredith Dietz

Here’s How Much You Actually Save Buying Gas at Costco (1)

Credit: Alexandru Nika - Shutterstock

Gas prices are currently stuck in neutral, but could be rising again soon. The average cost for a gallon of gas in the U.S. is $3.873 and has been hovering around this same number for nearly two weeks, “a noteworthy length for price stability,” according to AAA. However, new data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) suggests higher demand amid tighter supply, meaning pump prices could be on the rise again soon.

We all want to know how to get the most out of every drop of gas these days. Common consensus dictates that gas is always cheaper at warehouse clubs like Costco or Sam’s Clubs. An annual Costco membership is $60 for their Gold plan and $120 for an Executive membership. But if you’re not already part of the club, is it worth purchasing a Costco membership exclusively for the potential gas savings?

We did the math to see how much money you’d save if you bought a Costco membership now solely to take advantage of their gas prices for the rest of the year.

Is it worth it to get a Costco membership just for cheaper gas?

Gas prices at outlets like Costco and Sam’s Club have, in the past, been reported to be as much as 30 cents less per gallon than regular gas stations. Our goal here is to see if signing up for the most affordable Costco membership just to buy gas will save you money in the long run.

Small to midsize cars generally hold 12 gallons of gas, while trucks and larger SUVs could hold 16 gallons or more. For this experiment, let’s meet in the middle and use a 14-gallon fill-up as our benchmark. Also for math-related ease, let’s assume you fill your tank about once a week.

Because there’s no apparent difference in gas-related deals between the membership plans, we’ll work with their cheapest plan, which costs $60 annually.

I used the AAA Gas Prices map and GasBuddy to pull sample gas prices from one of the most affordable and one of the most expensive cities at the moment.

  • Columbus, Ohio: Costco = $3.39 / Shell = $3.69 / Kroger = $3.65

  • Inglewood, Calif.: Costco = $4.85 / Shell = $5.09 / Chevron = $5.39

The cost of gas without a Costco membership

In Columbus, your cheapest non-Costco option is Kroger. You pay $3.65 per gallon x 14 gallons = $51.10 per tank. Fill up once a week, and you’re paying $2,657.20 in gas per year.

In Inglewood, you find a Shell to get $5.09 per gallon. It costs you $71.26 per tank, and $3,705.52 for the year.

The cost of gas with a Costco membership

In Columbus, $3.39 per gallon x 14 gallons = $47.46 to fill up your tank. If you fill you tank once a week, that’s $2,467.92 per year. Tack on the $60 for your Costco Gold membership that got you these prices in the first place, and you’re at $2,527.92.

In Inglewood, $4.85 per gallon x 14 gallons = $67.90 per tank, and $3,530.80 per year. Plus the cost of membership, and your total is $3,590.80.

You save $3.64 per tank and $129.28 in gas per year in Ohio.

You save $3.36 per tank and $114.72 in gas per year in California.

To see how gas prices compare in your area, plug your zip code into GasBuddy.

Other considerations (like that huge line)

Some might consider a little over one hundred in savings less than astronomical (at least in places where gas is relatively cheaper already). However, weigh in the fact that you can use your Costco membership for other benefits, and the annual purchase could pay off in other, grocery-related ways.

Then again, you’re not exactly the first person thinking about joining the Costco club solely for their gas prices. In the past, Costcos across the nation have made headlines for ridiculously long lines at the station.

Finally, all of this depends on whether or not there’s even a Costco conveniently located near you. What if you have to waste gas driving out to a Costco station, and then wait in a long line once you’re there? In those cases, the gas savings might not be worth the additional hassle.

The takeaway: Costco gas is cheaper for members

On a yearly basis, the Costco Gold membership is worth its cost in gas savings. Plus, you’ll be able to use your membership for grocery and home goods shopping.

However, if you’d have to go out of your way to get to a Costco and you shudder at the prospect of waiting in extremely long lines for marginally cheaper gas, then the savings simply might not be worth it for you.

This post was originally published in March 2022 and was updated on Aug. 16, 2023 to reflect up-to-date gas prices.

Here’s How Much You Actually Save Buying Gas at Costco (2)

Meredith Dietz

Senior Finance Writer

Meredith Dietz is Lifehacker’s Senior Finance Writer. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and Communications from Northeastern University, where she graduated as valedictorian of her college. She grew up waitressing in her family restaurant in Wilmington, DE and worked at Hasbro Games, where she wrote rules for new games. Previously, she worked in the non-profit space as a Leadership Resident with the Harpswell Foundation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; later, she was a travel coordinator for a study abroad program that traced the rise of fascist propaganda across Western Europe.

Since then, Meredith has been driven to make personal finance accessible and address taboos of talking openly about money, including debt, investing, and saving for retirement. Outside of finance writing, Meredith is a marathon runner and stand-up comedian who has been a regular contributor to The Onion and Reductress. Meredith lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Here’s How Much You Actually Save Buying Gas at Costco (2024)

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