Although gas prices have dropped since their peak in June, some consumers are still feeling sticker shock at the pump. That’s especially true in California, where regular-grade gas prices average over $5 a gallon, according to AAA. Beyond driving less and shopping around for lower prices, consumers may be able to save with a warehouse club membership. But once you factor in the cost of membership, does it make sense to fill up at Costco and Sam’s Club gas stations? We did the math to find out, looking at the price of gas at Costco and Sam's Club locations in the Los Angeles area.
Note: Gasoline prices and savings will vary by location.
Costco Gasoline Savings
Basic Membership Cost: $60/year
Los Angeles-Long Beach Average: $5.70/gallon
Costco Culver City: $5.09/gallon
Savings Per Gallon: 61 cents
Gallons to Pay for Membership: 98 gallons
We used a real-world example to see how long it would take to compensate for Costco’s $60 annual membership. With the current prices in Los Angeles, Costco's membership would pay for itself after purchasing around 100 gallons of fuel. Considering cars have an average fuel economy of about 26 miles per gallon in the U.S., you’d have to drive at least 2,548 miles to make up for Costco’s membership fee. That’s well under what most people drive in the U.S., meaning that it’s quite likely Costco’s membership would pay for itself.
Since Americans average 13,476 miles per year, your savings would likely be significant if you consistently fill up at Costco. Assuming you only shop at Costco stations, you’d save around $316 a year, or $256 if we subtract the membership fee.
The Bottom Line: It’s likely that a Costco membership will pay for itself thanks to the retailer’s low gas prices, which are around 11% cheaper than the average price of gas in Los Angeles. Of course, prices and other variables will vary by region, driving habits, etc.
Not already a Costco member? You can apply here.
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Sam’s Club Gasoline Savings
Basic Membership Cost: $45/year
Los Angeles-Long Beach Average:$5.70/gallon
Sam’s Club Gardena: $4.98
Savings Per Gallon: 72 cents
Gallons to Pay for Membership: 63
Given Sam’s cheaper membership, you’d only have to purchase 63 gallons of fuel (around 1,638 miles of driving) to pay for the $45 annual fee. Most Americans drive far more in a year, so it’s a good bet Sam’s gas savings will pay for the membership.
In fact, you’d likely save around $373 a year, or $328 if we account for the membership fees, using national averages and assuming you only fill up at Sam’s Club gas stations.
The Bottom Line: Even if you only visit Sam’s gas station a half dozen times throughout the year, the $45 membership will likely pay for itself.
Not already a Sam's Club member? Apply now.
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Do Costco and Sam's Club Memberships Pay for Themselves?
While the variables — from fuel economy to gas prices — will vary widely from region to region, the savings are significant enough that it’s worth signing up for a Costco or Sam’s Club membership for the discounts on gas. For most people, the savings will make up for the nominal membership fees. If you’re still unsure, we encourage consumers to run their own calculations.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much is gas at Costco?
Gas prices at warehouse clubs are around 5 cents to 25 cents less per gallon, according to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. If you'd like to see how much Costco gas costs in your area, you can check on the Costco app or website under the "Find a Warehouse" section.
Is Costco gas good?
Yes. Costco gas is good because it sells TOP TIER-designated fuel. According to AAA’s 2016 research, “non-TOP TIER gasolines caused 19 times more engine deposits than TOP TIER brands after just 4,000 miles of simulated driving.” TOP TIER gasoline also includes extra additives and detergents, which can prevent deposits from forming in your engine, according to David Bennett, manager of repair systems for AAA.
How much is gas at Sam’s Club?
In an interview with Consumer Reports, gasoline expert Patrick De Haan said that gas prices at warehouse clubs are around 5 cents to 25 cents less per gallon. If you want to know how much Sam's Club gasoline is in your area, check on the retailer's app or website.
Is Sam’s Club gas good?
Unlike Costco, Sam's Club does not carry TOP TIER-designated fuel, meaning that it hasn't met the organization's rigorous clean engine standards (Arco, Chevron, and Exxon are a few TOP TIER-rated companies).