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What's best day to gas up? It depends

When is the best time of the week to buy gas? Best time of day? It doesn't matter

It's Saturday and your gas tank is almost empty.

Should you fill it up immediately, or will gas prices be lower on Monday, after all the summer road-trippers are home?

Waiting will not necessarily give you a price advantage.

"A lot of it has to do with when each individual station gets their new shipment of gas," said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Windy Van Curen in Richmond.

The price the gas station pays at the wholesale level will drive what the customer pays at the pump. So if a station gets a shipment on a Monday or Tuesday, the price per gallon could be cheaper -- or it could be more expensive, depending on how prices are trending, she said. Yesterday, for example, oil prices dipped to $115 a barrel.

The price of gas is affected by the cost of crude oil, the weather, geopolitical conditions and demand.

Fewer people may be traveling on Mondays and Tuesdays, Van Curen said, so demand could be lower those days, but demand is a single factor in the price.

"It really is all a myth as to one day or time being better than another," she said.

So feel free to fill up on Saturdays.

The only time it may be wiser to buy later is when prices are consistently dropping day to day.

Earlier this summer, AAA found prices were rising an average of a penny a day in the D.C. area, said John Townsend, AAA Mid-Atlantic's manager of public and government affairs in Washington.

People who filled up on the weekends started buying gas during the week, Townsend said, trying to stay ahead of the increase.

There is also no ideal time of day to purchase gas, Townsend said.

Fuel is sold on the assumption that it's 60 degrees, and the gas temperature in June through September averages 78.8 degrees in Virginia, according to Consumer Watchdog research director Judy Dugan.

Consumer Watchdog thinks most gas stations should be required to install temperature compensation devices on each pump, adjusting the fuel price to the gas temperature.

Canada has installed the devices on most of its gas and diesel pumps, but U.S. oil companies have opposed it so far, Dugan said.

The loss to consumers at higher temperatures is about a nickel a gallon, she said. "It's a basic untruth in the way gasoline is sold," Dugan said. "We all know we'll cross the street for a price of a nickel cheaper, but we have no way of knowing what the temperature of the gas is at any gas station."

Fueling up early in the day won't help, though. Consumer Watchdog says double- or triple-walled storage tanks act as a thermos, keeping the fuel at the temperature it was when it was poured into the tank.