Retail Gasoline Pricing: What Do We Know?

Authors:
Daniel Hosken, Robert McMillan, Christopher Taylor
Working Paper:
290

We examine retail gasoline station pricing using three years of weekly prices for 272 stations in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. We report a number of new empirical findings about station level pricing and describe how these findings relate to existing models of retail pricing. First, we find retail margins change substantially over time (by more than 50%) while the shape of the margin distribution remains relatively constant. Second, the distribution of retail gasoline prices has relatively thick tails. Third, stations frequently change their relative prices and margins. Fourth, there is substantial heterogeneity in pricing behavior: stations charging very low or high prices are more likely to maintain their pricing position than stations charging prices near the mean, even when controlling for permanent differences in marginal costs.