LAURINBURG — Though it may not be quite an arm and a leg, drivers across North Carolina are forking over more and more of their hard-earned cash at the pump — according to AAA Carolinas, 15 cents more per gallon than what they paid on March 8.
The club said Wednesday that the state average price per gallon of gasoline has jumped from $3.38 on March 8 to $3.53. Drivers in Scotland County are paying a little more, with the lowest prices in Laurinburg, according to gasbuddy.com, to be found at WilcoHess stations for $3.55. Shell stations on Johns and Barnes Bridge roads had prices of $3.57 and $3.65, respectively.
In Laurel Hill, a gallon of regular gasoline could be bought at the BP on the corner of U.S. 74 and Church Street for $3.65, the same price reported at Shell and Marathon stations on Main Street in Wagram.
According to David E. Parsons, AAA Carolinas president and CEO, the sudden price hike hits each spring when maintenance on oil refineries reduces production across the country.
“Spring is a difficult time for drivers, when gas prices typically rise due to refinery maintenance,” Parsons said in a statement. “The tightened supply throughout the country results in higher gas prices.”
Despite the increase, gasoline prices were higher in March of 2011, 2012 and 2013, with the statewide average price per gallon at $3.51, $3.79 and $3.69, respectively.
Prices in South Carolina have jumped even more, seeing a 17-cent increase, the club said. But because of South Carolina’s lower gasoline tax, that number —$3.36 a gallon — remains about 10 cents below what drivers will pay at a North Carolina pump, leading some to seek refuge beyond the county’s border, at one of two corner stations in McColl, S.C.
Sara Brigman, of Nic’s Pic Kwik on Tatum Avenue in McColl, said she doesn’t have to peek at license plates to see which of the store’s customers have crossed state lines.
“They’ll tell you,” she said. “They’ll say it’s ridiculous how much more it is over there — what is it, 10 or 15 cents more?”
Brigman says though the store sees a lot of traffic from travelers on a daily basis, sales get a bit of a bump when gasoline drops to rarely-seen lows of below $3 a gallon. On Wednesday, the station’s price was $3.45.
Nick Britt, a Laurinburg resident, fills the tank of his SUV at the store a couple of times each month, he said. Though he may have to travel a bit out of his way, Britt says the savings are worth it.
“If it’s quite a bit of a difference, I’ll come here, or if I’m down this way,” he said.
Others, like longtime Laurinburg resident Joanne Martin, simply go with the flow.
“I know they’ve gone up but I feel like there isn’t a thing I can do about it,” she said while pumping gas at the WilcoHess station near Scotland High School on Wednesday. “I always fill up here … by the time you go all that way (to South Carolina) you save $1.”
Gas prices are expected to continue to rise until refinery maintenance is complete, likely by the end of April, the club said. Demand increases as more people take to the road during warmer months, but supply should increase enough to lower prices.
Overall, AAA Carolinas expects gasoline prices this year to be slightly cheaper than 2013.
Abbi Overfelt can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 12. Follow her on Twitter @aoinscotco.