But Mr. Townsend warns against this. He said the gas pump in most vehicles works harder when the fuel drops below half a tank, so the gas will run out quicker. This also can cause the gas pump to burn out, which costs $500 to $1,600 to replace, he added.
“If you run too low, you can ruin your fuel pump,” he explained. “It works harder when it has less gas in it.”
Miss Silver said she is aware of this.
“When it’s full, it takes a little bit longer to get to half,” she said. “Then once it hits half, it does seem to go really, really fast.”
AAA Mid-Atlantic generally notices an increase in the number of customers who run out of gas while driving when gas prices jump. So far in April, 52 drivers from the District have done this, up 30 percent for the year.
But purchasing less gas or waiting longer to refuel doesn’t help in the long-run, Mr. Townsend said. Smart motorists switch to the Metro system, others carpool, and many will combine multiple trips into one.
“Unless you cut back on driving,” he said, “you’re not doing anything by buying it in smaller quantities.
But not every gas station struggles when the prices go up. Some are weathering the storm quite well.
Capitol Hill Exxon, a full-service station in the 300 block of Pennsylvania SE, has raised prices about 20 cents per gallon since the beginning of the month, but that hasn’t slowed business. On Monday, the price sign was at $4.29 a gallon, 52 cents above the national average, with drivers lining up.
The station’s regular customers — who include members of Congress — usually don’t face the same pressing financial concerns of typical drivers.
“We have a lot of regular customers that are going to come every day anyway,” manager David Woodall said. “We’re convenient to them.”