Hooniverse Asks- Do You Pay and Pump, or Pump and Pay? (Pump Week)


As car owners, one thing that we may currently take for granted is the lowly gas station. Once a proud beacon of repair, refuel and respect, they’re now on average just a place where you’re more likely to find a microwave burrito (yum) than a mechanic. Not only that but as the inevitable tide of alternate fuel cars arrive, the gas station’s inexorable slide into history will only accelerate. So this week we’re celebrating all things gas station with Pump Week.

Today, I want to know your fueling and paying habits – do you pump and pay or pay and pump? You may have seen the horrifying and yet hilarious video about the Aussie couple who tried to pump and jump at a Caltex station in Mount Warren Park.

 [youtube width=”720″ height=”504″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-lS4yj3dvw[/youtube]

Pretty great, huh? This event initiated a discussion across a lot of Internet sites wondering where exactly you could pump gas without first paying for it – which seems to be the common case in much of the U.S.. 

Since we don’t want to be excluded from the discussion, I thought it might be fun to poll all of you and see if you live in a place where they trust their customers, allowing you to slake you car’s thirst before whipping out the dough-rey-me, or if you have to pay up front for the honor to pump. Oregonians will likely have to sit this one out, as it’s against the law in that state to pump your own. I wonder, when they go to a restaurant does someone have to cut their meat for them too?

Alas, I digress. The question then is whether, in your neck of the woods, you can just sidle up to a gas pump and start filling you tank, or if you need to show proof that you can pay before you can get that precious petrol. Are you a pay and pumper, or are you able to pump and pay? 

Image: Route 66 Chamber of Commerce 


  1. Every gas station around here is a pump-then-pay with the exception of "debit-or-AmEx-only" Costco pumps.The above pumping method, minus the shenanigans and spraying gasoline everywhere, is pretty normal.
    EDIT: when I say "here" I mean Atlantic-by-God-Canada, specifically Fredericton NB.

    1. I believe they made it a felony to pump and go here in Nova Scotia. A guy I knew about five or so years ago would pull up to the pump and fill the car and procede to fill like eight jerry cans and then drive off. At about that time it was a common thing now I dont hear about it as much.

        1. Four million people in these here atlantic provinces. Makes for a terrible place to drive. Especially when 3.99 million of them dont know or care enough to do it right.

  2. My station is cash at the pump. So, pay and then pump. Nothing like showing up with a 10$ bill in the middle of the night and topping off the tank.

  3. Here in the frozen deserted tundras of Detroit, Michigan it varies. Pay-then-pump is pretty universal here (not sure if it's actually codified in law), and if you're paying at the pump you pay first. However, I know one gas station (and repair shop!) whose pumps are finicky about taking plastic. So, I go inside to give them my card and the guys says, "Hey engineerd! Go ahead and pump then come in when you're done." Not sure he would do that for just anyone, but I wouldn't doubt it. This gas station, and its owner, definitely have the air of stations of a day gone by.

  4. In Brazil we still get service, there will be attendends to fill up for you, clean your window and lights, check your oil level, water level, tire pressure, etc. and pay after. At my local pump they just take note and only pay once a month.

    1. Wow.
      Edit- how much is fuel in Brazil? In the states, a fill up on a Suburban can be $100US or more. Do that a 3-4 times a month… Significant money there.

      1. It's $110 to fill up my mk2 Golf where in the Netherlands. More for my Peugeot, but I've never topped that one off with gasoline as it has an LPG gas conversion. $3.21 a gallon (US) and a 10-15% decrease in economy easily beats $8.15 a gallon.
        More on topic: 100% pump and pay, unless it's an unmanned station.

  5. At gas stations in my small town, if you buy the microwave burrito, gas is free.

  6. Here in Oregon, its pay only. By law, someone else has to do the pumping. There probably an obscene joke in there somewhere.

        1. Unless you're on a motorcycle. I never had one attendant even try to pump gas into my bike.

  7. When I first started driving, I would pump then pay. Pay at the pump hadn’t really become ubiquitous, and a $10 bill would fill the MR2, and leave me enough change for a pack of smokes. Prepaying was always a hassle, since it either required two trips into the store, or something less than a fill-up. Most gas stations now seem to be pre-pay, but with card readers at virtually every pump, it’s less of a concern. I occasionally come across a station (usually in very rural areas) where it is not pre-pay, or is only pre-pay after dark. I’ve as recently as last year filled up as a station that not only didn’t have a pump mounted card reader, it had a pump with mechanical dials. I pumped and then paid cash.

    1. That sounds the same as where I live. In the last 10-15 years or so almost all stations have gone to pay at the pump or pay first. I know a few, namely Quicktrip, have a card you can sign up for to start the pump, then go in and pay cash. I guess they get all your info up front to prevent drive offs. A few rural stations don't have pay at the pump or require pre-pay.

  8. I always pay before pumping and, when given the chioce between 'debit' or 'credit', I always use the 'credit' option. Gas stations have become a prime target for identity thieves and the 'debit' option can expose your pin number.

  9. I can't remember the last time I didn't pay at the pump, so I'm not sure if there are any pump first stations left in the area. If there are, I'd bet it's at a station that still has a full service island.
    I do go to a restaurant tthat doesn't prepare a bill for your food. You order at a counter, sit down and they bring it to you, and you eat it. When your meal is over, you go to the cashier who asks "What did you have?" so he knows what to ring up. Sometimes it is hard to remember when the food is already being digested. I wonder how many items get missed.

  10. Here in Northern Michigan,we are still given the benefit of pumping then paying,so far.

  11. In rural KY you can pump then pay. In Lexington, its pay then pump. At Shell stations you can get a $0.10 discount if you use your Kroger Plus Card.

  12. In rural NH, it's a mixed bag. If the pumps are old enough that they don't take plastic, I'll just pump what I want and go in afterward. Usually they're newer, and I just swipe my card first. Down here in Massachusetts, yeah, you pay first, that's a given.

    1. I live in mass and you pretty much get the choice of pay now or later. The cheapest gas stations are usually an attendant and you pay first with cash only though.

      1. I suppose I'm just used to eastern Massachusetts – here in Lowell, you go in and pay; the same is true the closer you get to the city. In more rural parts of the state, you definitely have the choice as you do in most of New Hampshire.
        I don't really pay attention, though, since if I'm paying with cash it's usually a fixed amount ($20, rather than 'fill it up' and have to deal with $3.38 in change) and most places that take credit/debit have pumps with card readers.

  13. For my work truck, fueling is through Ryder, so I get full service pumping, and the company pays later.

  14. Debit pay, fill it up.
    Only time in the 10+ years I hadn't "filled it up" was on rent car returns that I got with less than a full tank.

  15. For my sensible answer; apart from where there's a "pay at pump" option, I pump, then pay, then go sit in the car and have a little cry about the money I've just handed over.
    I still have a stupid habit of only putting £15 in my car at a time. It somehow seems less painful. It's £1.35 per litre right now, at least by only carrying around a few gallons I'm saving weight, right? That's the logic I use. I sometimes forget how weird I am.

    1. When I fill up, I like checking out the other pumps to see how much gas the last customer pumped. Often, it isn't even in the double digits. A few weeks ago, I saw a guy pull in to the station in a beater Chevy C1500. He went into the convenience store for a pack of smokes, walked back to the pump, and put $3.00 worth of gas into the truck. I wonder how much of that got used up re-starting the truck?

      1. My in-laws seem to operate the same way. They seem to always put $20 worth of gas in, it doesn't matter if this was back when it was $2/gal or when it was up to $4/gal. The problem is they drive an Avalanche. It never has more than 1/4 tank of gas in it. I think they do fill it up, but only for long out of state trips.

    2. I fill up the Town Cow's 20 gallon fuel tank twice a month — once per paycheck — which currently costs me about $50-60 a tank.
      BUUUT… between the Town Cow, the SuperCrew, and my wife's Chrysler 300, we spend a total of about $440/month (£280) in gasoline, which translates to well over 2000 miles a month between the three cars.

      1. Here's the logic my Dad uses when justifying his 540. His car; 25mpg. The beater Ka; 55mpg. That makes an average fleet consumption of 40mpg. If he uses the Ford versus the BMW at a 4-1 ratio, he's being positively frugal.

        1. Town Cow: 17-18 MPG.
          F150 SuperCrew: 12-14 MPG.
          Chrysler 300: 18-20 MPG.
          Yea, we pretty much suck at this game no matter how you slice it.

        2. Well, his math is off on his fleet average. 25 and 55 actually works out to 34.375 mpg (You have to average the reciprocals) if driven equal distances. His 4:1 driving ratio helps, and brings him up to an average of 44.45 mpg.

          1. Yeah, maths were never my strong point, either. Everything I was told went in one ear and came out the others.
            I can colour things in really well, though.

    3. I wish that the pay at the pump setup at the station I'd go to would use odd numbers, it takes $50 or so to fill but I usually get $40 because I don't want the extra hold nonsense on my card.

  16. At my station, when it's cold I pump then pay, because I go down the full serve lane and go inside as quickly as possible. If it's nice out, I pay then pump, because that's the only option for self serve.

  17. Some of the bigger, newer stations here (Toronto, Canadaland) are pre-pay only for the pumps on the fringes of the station, but still allow pump then pay inside for the ones close to the gas bar.

  18. How about paying a dollar to charity to put air in your tires…. One of those things that iirks me, I ask which charity the cash goes to and can never get a straight answer from the cashier. Or you pay and the pump just will not fill a tire or deflates it because its just a glorrified 12 volt emergency compressor.

  19. I guess, technically, I "pump" and pay: I plug in my car every night and then, some time later, I get the electricity bill…

  20. It's a mixed bag around here (DFW area). Some are pump then pay, pay then pump, or pay at the pump, or a combo of two of the three. I normally use a card or SpeedPass, so I always pay in advance.

  21. I'm not sure there's anyplace in California that lets you pump first anymore.
    As it is, there are very few places where you can't pay at the pump. if I happen to pull into one of those, I leave, go next door and pay 3 cents more to keep from having to walk inside.
    This also keeps me away from the burrito temptation.

  22. For the first time in a long time I went to a station yesterday that charged $0.05 more to use a credit or debit card instead of cash. It was a Valero station. It didn't notice it until I swiped my card.

    1. A couple gas station owners I've spoken with tell me that the margins are so thin that fuel sales are essentially a break even proposition, particularly with the higher transaction fees they pay on credit cards.

      1. I do remember hearing that the only profits at a gas station/convenience store come from the alcohol and cigarette sales. Even the cokes and candy bars are a break even kind of thing.

      2. Same in Europe too I've heard. Here only few crappy places in countryside have pay&pump system but chain with biggest stations (all pump&pay) has installed only 1-2 card terminals at the pumps per petrol station of, say, 8 pumps, just to get people inside to pay and shop, to earn some money through sales of anything from toothpaste to vodka.

        1. I see some irony in the fact that the stations (typically franchisees) aren't reaping huge rewards and yet 3 of the top 5 (and 4 of the top10) in the Fortune 500 are oil companies.

          1. A sad irony lost on everyone who sporadically insists we take a day to collectively not fill up, figuring it'll magically drive gas prices down (forgetting the oil companies have already made their profit on the gas).

    2. That's nearly universal here in metro Detroit, except for a very small handful of corporate owned gas stations. However the premium is usually .10 to.15 cents a gallon for using plastic.

  23. Pre-pay only is practically universal here, and has been mandated by law within the KCMO city limits since 2006.
    Code of Ordinances of the City of Kansas City, Missouri, Sec. 50-126.
    Gasoline pre-payment or pre-approval.
    (a) Definitions. As used in this section the following terms shall have the
    meanings given in this subsection:
    | (1) "Pre-approval" means the business has issued an identification card
    | to the purchaser that verifies and records the purchaser's driver's license
    | information.
    | (2) "Pre-pay" means payment in advance for any quantity of gasoline or
    | diesel fuel sold at any time by cash, credit card, debit card, check or any
    | other legal means.
    (b) Payment or approval in advance required for gasoline and/or diesel fuel sold.
    Business establishments that sell gasoline and/or diesel fuel shall require pre-payment or
    pre-approval of sales of fuel prior to activation or authorization of any fuel dispensing
    unit or fuel pumping devise.
    (c) Penalty. Failure or refusal to comply with this section will be a basis for the
    non-renewal of a business license pursuant to Section 40-31.

    1. Combining this with a common $75 limit on pay at the pump transactions means that I can't get a full tank in the pickup when prices spike.

  24. When I was younger and poorer, I would pre-pay in the gas station with my cash. These days, I just run my debit card at the pump and fill the tanks. I can't think of any stations around here that allow you to pump gas before paying for it.

  25. pay and pump, i guess. swipe card, fill tank completely full, record miles since last fill-up, gallons pumped, total price paid, and MPG for the tank in a small notebook kept in the center console.
    are there really people who don't do that for every tank? what a bunch of lazy bastards.

  26. Here in Oregon, somebody else pumps the gas and usually wants to be paid first.

  27. I don't actually know what the rules are around here. I track gas mileage on my cars (nice canary for tune-up problems), so I always fill all the way up. That means using my credit card is the simplest, most convenient and secure way to do it. So, I always pay then pump.
    I also use a station that's both a gas station and mechanic (although, I don't use the mechanic service, so I don't know how good they are).
    Finally, the interesting thing around here is that you can tell how nice the part of town you're in is based on the amenities at the gas station. By "available amenities" I mean "does the gas station leave the window squeegees in the wash water bins"? This was something I noticed almost immediately when I moved down here. Only in the nicest, richest parts of the Bay Area will they actually provide squeegees. If the station is in a modest part of town (read: near a mildly sketchy area), there will be no squeegees. I presume all the station owners got sick of replacing them years ago.
    I drive over to the slightly further away gas station in the really nice part of town so I can wash my window when I fill up. It also happens to be about the same distance from the freeway, and thus not actually a bigger hit on the wallet than the closer station.

      1. I normally go to the shell station on Grand at the edge of Piedmont. There's an Arco closer and another couple of stations down on International that are closer (but never have squeegees). The one on Grand is at least between me and a bunch of places I often go to.
        I'm somewhat loyal to shell, but there's probably a decent bit of irrationality built into it. I distrust the cheap stuff (sold at the Arco station), I remember it wrecking my folks' lawnmower when I was in high school. That may have been the ethanol content, which is, of course, mandated across all stations now. Also, my Jeep has a tractor engine, and probably doesn't care.

  28. I havent seen a pump and pay since gas first went over $4 a gallon back in 2007. when it got close to $5 they enforced a $50 cap per transaction. That was a lot of fun driving a 70 mile round trip in Silverado with a 32 gallon tank. 3 transactions to fill up and filling up 3 times a week. ugh.
    now that its up over $4 again some of the stations are putting the caps back into effect.

  29. Having lived in California, Connecticut, Oklahoma and Colorado, I can say that I can't remember the last time I pumped, then payed. Oh, wait, it was in New Jersey (where it's technically have pumped, then pay) on a trip to pick up people at EWR when I was living in CT. My point is that pump then pay is pretty damn unusual.

  30. brodus, mt on my way to strugis, pump and then pay. No credit card thingy on the pump. Also right after you fill up you pull forward so someone else can get gas then you use the restroom, find something cool to drink then tell the cowboy at the counter how much you owe him. He just writes the total on a note pad but can't keep track of who is who so you gotta tell him.

  31. Pay at the pump is the norm around here in Charlotte, NC. There are a few full-service stations left in the area but the gas costs more since you're paying someone else to pump (I assume they check your tire pressure & fluid levels also, like they did when I was a youngster). The only time I go into the store is when the pump won't print a receipt and I have to get it from the cashier.

  32. Like Lotte said, virtually all of Toronto's gas stations allow pumping, then paying. I just pay first since virtually all my transactions go on the credit card for the points. Also, my car's tank is approximately a half pint, so I'm filling up two or three times a week, and I'd rather save the time to walk in and pay, however incremental it is.

  33. I honestly don't even understand paying before pumping if payment is through something other than scanning a credit card at the pump. I've never done it – I either pay with a card @ the pump, or go elsewhere that lets me pump & then pay inside. Seems to me pay-before-pumping, without a card reader on the pump, involves 2 trips into the store unless you pump exactly what you pay.

    1. It harms the establishment none whatsoever if you make two trips.
      If you drive off without paying…yeah, that's a loss.

    2. I don't think I've ever encountered a pump-then-pay setup, myself…sounds like that probably has been gone from most of California for quite some time.
      As far as how pay-before-pump works with cash, I do remember that back in high school, before I had a credit card, the local station where I usually filled up had some method of metering the gas to a particular pump. I'd pull up to a pump, walk into the little convenience-store/hut thing, say something along the lines of "$20 on pump number 5, please", hand over a bill, and walk back outside. Then I could just let the pump go until it hit however much I had paid for. I never thought twice about it; kinda just assumed that's how it always worked when you paid cash for gas.
      Side note: man, that $20 used to put the better part of half a tank into EACH of the tanks of the big ol' E-150 conversion van I was driving at the time. I'd be hitting ATMs a lot more often if I were still using that method nowadays…

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