Gas prices are on the rise around the U.S., reaching more than $4 per gallon in some parts of the country, and many motorists are understandably upset. But at $4 or even $5 per gallon, gas is one of the great bargains in modern life. In fact, many people routinely spend 10 to 25 times that amount per gallon on certain liquids at the grocery store without batting an eye. Here are five popular liquids at the grocery store that make gasoline seem very cheap by comparison.
5. Imported Beers, $14 Per Gallon
Some of the popular import beers cost around $15 per 12-pack, which at 144 ounces is just more than a gallon (128 ounces). Add tax and the price comes to more than $14 per gallon, roughly three times the price of gas. It wouldn’t be fair to put wine on this list, because the price variance is so great. Depending on the selection in your local grocer’s wine section, you could pay well over $200 per gallon for a bottle of the good stuff.
4. Salad Dressing, $32 Per Gallon
Before we get to the salad dressing, consider how much expense goes into producing the fuel for your car. First, an oil company must spend money to find crude oil sources (many such searches turn up empty, so you have to factor in that cost, too). Then the oil must be extracted, shipped to a refinery and refined into gasoline. From there, it is shipped to service stations around the country via pipeline and tanker trucks, and the final price per gallon includes labor and maintenance costs for the service station itself. Oh, and don’t forget federal and state excise taxes, which add an average of about 46 cents per gallon to the cost of gasoline (residents of New York, which boasts the highest state excise tax rate in the nation, pay 67 cents per gallon in excise taxes). Now, it’s reasonable to surmise that not nearly as much extraction work, transportation costs, research, etc., goes into the production of salad dressing. Yet it costs roughly $32 per gallon, and more than that for organic or fancier brands.
3. Mouthwash, $36 Per Gallon
For most of these consumer items, there are fewer manufacturers, thus less competition. Consider how many oil and gas companies you can think of off the top of your head. You can probably name a half dozen without really trying. Now, try to name all the brands of mouthwash on your grocer’s shelf. It’s a much shorter list. Less competition means higher prices.
2. Shampoo, $81 Per Gallon
This price reflects the cost of an 11-ounce bottle of Selsun Blue Itchy Scalp Shampoo, priced on Target.com at $6.99. More upscale brands in smaller bottles cost more than $100 per gallon, while many shampoos are priced in the $10 to $20 per gallon range. Part of the reason the items on this list are more expensive than gasoline is that they are sold in smaller portions, meaning anywhere from 10 to 25 bottles are needed for each gallon. Gasoline is delivered, stored and bought in bulk quantities. Still, that doesn’t account for all of the price difference. So why do companies charge the prices they do for these commodities? Because consumers are willing to pay those prices.
1. Hot Sauce, $102 Per Gallon
When you spend $3.99 for a 5-ounce bottle of hot sauce, that price works out to $102 per gallon. It doesn’t sound so expensive if we translate the price like this: TABASCO, the company that manufactures hundreds of thousands of bottles of its famous hot sauce each day, estimates that there are 720 drops of sauce in a 2-ounce bottle. That breaks down to 46,080 drops per gallon … or about 0.0022 per drop.
Hopefully, all of this will make you feel a little better the next time you spend $80 filling up your SUV. Finally, here’s an interesting map from GasBuddy.com that shows average gas prices in all 3,000-plus U.S. counties.