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3 entries from December 2018

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from PumpTalk

As the holiday season ramps up, we’d like to take a moment to say a few “Thank You’s”.

We’d like to say "Thank You!" to our readers and commenters. We appreciate you making PumpTalk part of your day.

And we’d like to say an extra special “Thank you!” to the hundreds of Petro-Canada employees and associates who are working during the holidays to make sure that Canadians can get to what matters most to them.

Across Canada, our stations are often one of the few places open over the holidays. So if you need a warming cup of coffee on a long drive or a last-minute stocking stuffer (gift cards or instant lottery are good choices), please stop in.

This will be our last post for 2018. We'll see you back here in early January. Wishing you and yours a relaxing holiday season and a peaceful New Year!


Gas Prices over the Holidays

Santa-at-gas-pumpNow that I’ve got my Christmas gift shopping finished, I can really concentrate on what I love about the holidays: catching up with family and friends (oh, and the cookies and the fruitcake (yeah, I’m one of those nerds who actually LIKES fruitcake)).

For some, including me, the holiday season means some extra driving. I head over to Vancouver Island to visit my family for a few days over the holidays and that trip always means an extra fill up or two. Which can add up on my already over-burdened credit card. I started to get a little cranky when thinking about it “Why do gas prices always go up during the holidays?!” but then I wondered if they really do. So, I thought (nerd alert!) “Time for some data mining!” Warning: charts ahead!

The Kent Group is an independent organization that collects and shares data on (among other things) petroleum pricing. They issue a quarterly report on crude, wholesale and retail pump prices in Canada (please note the website is in English but newsletter reports are available in English and French). I looked at their 4th Quarter report for 2017. According to their research, the average price at the pump for gasoline in Canada was lower in December than it was in November.


OK, so overall, the average Canadian price for a litre of fuel didn’t go up last year over the holidays. But what about earlier than last year? And what about in my specific location? We know gas prices vary from region to region, largely because of taxes; does my region’s holiday pricing hold consistent with the country’s?

The Kent Group collects daily pump prices from 70 cities across Canada (English only) and makes that data available on their website. They also provide tools to slice and dice the data. Using their timeline tool, I selected pump prices for the last 3 years (Nov 1, 2015 – Dec 12, 2018) in Vancouver and Victoria (note – I added the red dots to indicate the holiday season).

Gas Prices in YVR and YYJ

So, it looks like there are dips during the holiday season (the last 2 weeks of Dec for our purposes here). The Kent Group’s report from Q4 2017 mentions that historically the demand for gasoline goes down during this time of year, which often results in gasoline price drops. However, I wanted to drill down a little deeper. What happens in the month preceding and the month following the holidays? Conveniently, you can also download the raw data for any graph you create. So, I downloaded it and selected the data from Nov 1 thru Jan 31 for each year 2015-2018.

2015: Victoria flat over the holidays; Vancouver had a slight increase heading into the new year.
2016: Victoria flat in the early part of the holiday season, then heads into the new year with an increase; tough year for Vancouver, prices increasing since mid-Nov – not necessarily a holiday-related increase.
2017: Victoria had a tiny decrease (about 2 CPL) over the holiday and into the new year; Vancouver held steady over the holiday and then increased into the new year.
2018: both Victoria and Vancouver are on a downward trend as of the writing of this article (Dec 12, 2018). Hopefully this will continue, but it will be interesting to see what happens.

What conclusions can we draw? Gas prices may go down in the aggregate over the holidays per the Kent report, but not always consistently across every market (Vancouver seems to buck the national trend on a regular basis. Oh, Vancouver.). It’s important to be aware of YOUR market’s prices. You can download the Kent Group data for your area and see what trends occur there.

And just a quick reminder about the four key elements that influence the price of gas:

  1. The cost of crude oil, including factors that can impact its cost, such as: severe weather, supply and demand, inventory levels, the cost of production, and global crisis;
  2. Wholesale gasoline prices, which are influenced by factors such as: supply and demand, refinery maintenance, and weather;
  3. Refining and marketing costs: including the cost of refining crude oil into gasoline, and then transporting and distributing the gasoline to local stations;
  4. Taxes: each province has different fuel taxes. You can check the different tax levels at Natural Resources Canada.

Two of these factors (the cost of crude and wholesale gasoline prices) are commodities, meaning the value that traders place on these commodities changes based on market conditions. While you would think that crude oil and wholesale gasoline prices should move in the same direction, their prices are often quite different. For example, while the global supply of crude has been quite high (driving down the price of crude), the demand for local gasoline has also been high, which increases the price of wholesale gasoline. That’s why the price at the pump can remain high even when crude prices go down.

And because crude and wholesale gasoline is traded in U.S. dollars, the lower value of the Canadian dollar also has a role to play in why we see a higher price at the pump.

If you’re still with me at this point (that was a lot of information about gas prices!), thank you! We know that this topic comes up a lot over the holiday dinner table, so we thought we’d give you some information you can use. Oh, and remember my overburdened credit card? In case yours is too, just a reminder that when you link your Petro-Points card to any RBC credit card, you can save 3 cents off every litre of fuel at Petro-Canada. Now that’s some warming holiday cheer!

- Rose R.

DISCLOSURE: The Kent Group is occasionally engaged, on behalf of the Canadian Fuels Association, to provide independent third party research. Suncor Energy is a member company of the Canadian Fuels Association.

Top Ten Gift Ideas for Drivers and Car Enthusiasts

Gifts for Car Lovers

I can’t believe it’s December already - the time of year where I break out in hives, trying to find the perfect gift for everyone. I have a couple of car enthusiasts on my list and, while casting around for some cool gifts for them, I decided to put together a list of my personal top ten gift ideas for people who like to spend a lot of time behind the wheel.

Car gear is always a good choice – these first four gift ideas fall into that category:

1. Spar.saa Inverted Umbrella
OK, maybe this is just because I live in Vancouver where it is always raining, but I think this is a great idea – the inverted umbrella. It lets you get in your car and fold up the umbrella with a minimum of getting wet. I would absolutely appreciate this as a gift! Check out this video.

2. Dash Cam
Whether your gift recipient just wants a record of their driving for insurance purposes or they have aspirations of becoming a YouTube star, a dash cam may fit the bill. This piece from AutoFocus highlights some of the issues when considering using a dash cam. And Best Buy has a post on how to choose a dash cam as well as a feature-by-feature comparison of some models.

3. Car Aromatherapy Diffuser
Road rage affects all of us. So can a stinky dog. If your gift recipient’s car (or mood) needs a little freshening, go one step better than a pine tree deodorizer and get them a car aromatherapy diffuser. Some diffusers plug into the cigarette lighter and others just snap onto your vent. Choose a scent they like – something calming, energizing, spicy or floral. Or, if they want to go old school, there’s always the trusty pine scent. Refreshingly retro!

4. Car Emergency Kit
A few years ago, I gave my immediate family members an earthquake safety kit. It was just a starter one, but it helped them all get on the path to preparing a bigger one for their households. Emergency kits aren’t as sexy as a LEGO Bugatti, but they are useful and potentially life saving.

You can find different types of kits online; some focus more on first aid contents, while others have a more roadside car assistance focus. Look for one that suits the your gift recipient’s daily driving life.

If you’re not comfortable buying something for your car-lover’s beloved ride, you can always choose a gift that will help them show off their love for their car instead. Like:

5. Automotive-Themed Jewelry
Help your gearhead accessorize their look with automotive-themed jewelry! A crankshaft necklace, piston and rod earrings or a pair of wheel rim cufflinks may be just the blingy ticket this holiday season. I'm particularly partial to items made from "fordite" - a simulated gemstone made from built up layers of enamel paint from the paint bays at old car factories in Detroit.

Fordite Pendant by Rhonda [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes your favourite car enthusiast can’t take their summer-only car out for a spin. That’s when you need to get them something they can enjoy at home.

6. Car Video Games
Occasionally it can be fun to race through Prague from the comfort of your own living room. For the virtual car lover who has an Xbox, check out Forza Motorsport 7. It features over 700 cars – something to keep your gift recipient busy during the winter months. If a Playstation is the platform of choice, try Gran Turismo Sport on for size. It features 18 in-game locations and 54 different layouts – from racing circuits to dirt tracks.

7. Car-related Books
Maybe your car lover just enjoys a quiet, armchair drive. Great gift options include: coffee table books about every model imaginable, books about automotive history, or even this beautiful book about the unusual architecture of the gas station.

It's a Gas - Book Cover and Image
Station Image by Tomáš Souček from 'It's a Gas' copyright gestalten 2018

But what if your car enthusiast has everything? What kind of gift do you get them then?

8. Unique Driving Experience
Instead of giving a thing, give an experience. There are so many great options for unique driving experiences. Most performance car brands, like Jaguar or Porsche, offer training or track outings – perfect for someone who is loyal to a particular make or model. If your car lover likes to “play the field” as it were, there are several companies that will arrange tours along scenic routes and let drivers change between multiple exotic supercars. Finally, if the car doesn’t matter as much as the environment, perhaps ice circuit training on a frozen skid pond would make the perfect gift.

These are all great, right? But what if it is Christmas Eve and you are on the way to your in-laws and you forgot to get Cousin Joe a present? We’ve got you covered with two perfect last minute gifts. Spoiler alert – you can get both of these last minute gifts at our stations.

9. A Wash & Go Card
I actually received one of these last year in the office Secret Santa exchange. I was surprised at how excited I was to get it (even more than the box of Quality Street). I don’t actually wash my car all that often. I find it a bit of a hassle to go in to the station, buy a ticket, get back in my car and then type a code at the entrance! But with the Petro-Canada Wash & Go Card – you just tap it at the entrance and get sudsy. Plus, when I reload online, I get a bonus wash (2 bonus washes if I reload before January 7, 2019). Nice!

Petro-Canada Gift Card

10. A Petro-Canada Gift Card
First of all, who doesn’t love getting a gift card? I ask for an iTunes gift card every year for my birthday. Every year. It’s the perfect gift. So, for the car lover on your list, a Petro-Canada Gift Card is a great option! They can get a fuel-up or some snacks or a lottery ticket – so many options!

And there we have it! 10 great gift ideas for the car lover on your list! Did we miss one of your great gift ideas? If so, share it in the comments!

- Rose R.