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If you've never traveled to the United States before, the gas/petrol prices here might surprise you. While prices are comparable to several other regions of the world, you might see prices much higher or lower than you are used to (depending on where you are from).

Types of Gas/Petrol

When you go to the gas station, you will be able to select the grade of gas that you want. The choices you'll usually have include:

  • Premium (most expensive).
  • Midgrade.
  • Regular/unleaded (least expensive)—typically labeled in black.
  • Diesel—typically labeled in green.

You can probably stick to filling your car with regular gas unless you're driving a vehicle with a high-powered engine (such as sports cars and large SUVs), in which case it'll be better to fill up with either midgrade or premium gas to keep your engine running smoothly.

Pay close attention if the vehicle you're driving requires diesel fuel—failure to fill up properly could cause major engine damage and a bad trip for you.

If you're not sure about what type of gas to put in your car, check the owner's manual for the vehicle you're driving.

Purchasing Gasoline

If you're planning on driving long distances during your visit to the U.S., you will need to know how to purchase gas. In general, it's suggested that you refill your tank before it gets to a quarter tank. Running on fumes is bad for your car and can lead to larger, more expensive problems in the future.

When you go to buy gas, you will either encounter a full-service or self-service gas station, both at which you'll need to know what type of gas your car needs.

NOTE: Never smoke at or near a gas station. The fumes from the gas could ignite, resulting in a fire or explosion.

Full-Service Gas Stations

At a full-service station, an attendant will come to your car and ask you what type of gas you want and how many gallons. They will pump the gas for you, meaning you don't have to get out of your car.

You will then need to hand them payment in the form of cash or credit card (depending on their policies). You are not expected to tip them for their services.

At some full service stations, they will even wash your windows and check your car's oil levels.

Self-Service Gas Stations

A good number of U.S. gas stations are self-service. This means that you need to get out of your car, pay for, and pump your own gas.

When you arrive at the gas station you'll need to:

  • Pull up to an empty gas pump.
    • Make sure your gas tank is on the right side! You can figure out which side your tank is on by looking at the tiny arrow next to the gasoline symbol on your dashboard.
  • Pay for the amount and type of gas that you want with cash or credit card.
    • You will either need to pay the station clerk in person or pay at the pump.
  • Select the type/grade of gas you'd like.
  • Put the gas nozzle into your car's tank, and pull it slightly down until it's secure.
  • Pull up on the nozzle's trigger and lock it into place.
  • Carefully remove the nozzle when the machine stops pumping gas into your car.
  • Collect your change from the station clerk (if there's any left over).

Additional Gas Station Services

Some American gas stations will have other services that you can take advantage of, including:

  • Restrooms.
  • Air pumps in case of low tire pressure.
  • Convenience stores, where you can find items such as:
    • Food and drinks.
    • Toiletries.
    • Car accessories.
    • An ATM.
  • Car wash.
  • Pay phone.

So, while you're waiting for your gas to finish pumping you can grab a bite to eat, use the bathroom, and buy a new air freshener for your car all in one fell swoop.

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