Unleaded gasoline prices in the Washington area have tumbled 15 percent in five weeks to an average of 95 cents a gallon, and some dealers are predicting even more decreases this weekend as cheaper gasoline comes to the pump.
A survey of 25 gasoline stations showed that the average cash price of unleaded gasoline at self-service pumps had dropped 17 cents from the level recorded in February by a Washington Post survey of the same stations.
The average is 10 cents less than the $1.05 average unleaded price announced last week by the American Automobile Association. At the time, industry experts predicted gasoline prices here could tumble an additional 20 cents before summer.
"There's typically a slow decline, then a drastic drop, then a leveling off and a second decline," said AAA spokesman Douglas Neilson. Industry specialists say the decline will continue. "The second shoe hasn't dropped yet," Neilson said.
"You'll probably see prices start going down Friday and Saturday," said Connie Schulz, who was selling unleaded gasoline at her Ferndale Shell station in Glen Burnie yesterday for 91 cents a gallon.
That price will drop 2 cents this weekend after the station receives its shipments of gasoline at lower prices that will become effective today, she said.
In the District, where taxes are generally higher and retail competition typically less than in surburban areas, the Post survey found self-service unleaded gasoline was selling for 95.3 cents a gallon. Unleaded was selling for about the same price at the suburban stations, with Maryland's average 94.1 cents and Virginia's 95.9.
Signs of price wars in the suburbs, where some stations dropped their prices almost daily in the last few weeks, have been disappearing.
"I'm trying to make money," station owner Isaac Allal said yesterday. He said the 94.9 cents he was charging for a gallon of unleaded gasoline is slightly above that of others near his station in Laurel. "All the gas dealers are idiots. Instead of trying to make money, they're trying to pass it on to consumers."
With higher prices, Allal said, "We could be paying better wages and giving better service." But he said he, too, will pass along a 3-cent decrease in his cost that became effective earlier this week.
Prices throughout the Washington area and the surrounding outer counties showed disparities, but no significant geographic patterns. "I rode around town last Sunday and checked prices," said Kenneth Rice, owner of Bryan's Self Service station in Frederick, Md.
"The prices are wild, full of extremes. They are very high and very low," Rice added.
On a rural section of Maryland Rte. 228 between Berry and Waldorf, Don Whyte's storefront station was pumping very little unleaded gasoline for $1.15 a gallon.
Why so high?
"That's because there's no station across the street," said Whyte with a smile.