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Why price at the pumps sparks a passion in Gas Guru Dan McTeague

McTeague’s interest in predicting the price to fuel up goes back to his days as an MP for Pickering-Scarborough East

By Perry Lefko Wheels.ca

Oct 9, 2022 5 min. read

Article was updated 2 months ago

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Nothing fuels Dan McTeague quite like talking about gas.

Well known among Canadians as the go-to guy for gas price updates the country, McTeague has a website, GasWizard.ca, and a twitter account, @GasPriceWizard, where he predicts what gas prices will be like two or three days in advance.

A former Liberal member of parliament – he represented Pickering-Scarborough East from 1993 to 2011 – he is also president of Canadians For Affordable Energy, which believes keeping energy services affordable must be an ongoing public policy priority for all levels of government. The organization is committed to speaking out on this issue so there is an informed debate, and the interests of all Canadians are heard.

We caught up with McTeague to find out what spurred his interest in gas prices, the best times to purchase gas, running your vehicle on a low tank and whether he’s getting paid to produce his content.

What made you so interested in the price of gas? 

I was concerned about fuel prices, which was a constant issue in the early 1990s. Some independent gas retailers in my riding had gone under and I couldn’t figure it out. I thought maybe the best way to help protect consumers was by providing some kind of notice before impending prices were increased so people wouldn’t be caught off guard.

How much time day do you spent answering calls from the media seeking gas updates? 

It depends, usually 15 to 20 a day. When it was $2 a litre (earlier this summer), which I predicted about a year and a half ago, it was 60 to 70. I couldn’t do them all. It really depends on the circumstances. It’s not just Toronto-centric, it’s also French-language media. There’s also a lot of gas stations who call me up and say, “What’s happening or what does the market indicate?” On the Twitter side, I don’t hold back. I have fun with it. There’s a lot of disinformation out there, much of it is political.

Is there an optimal time to fill up your car? 

You tend to have more of an advantage buying gasoline in the evening than you do in the morning. That’s also true on the weekend. Gas stations need to cover a certain amount – they have an eight-cent retail margin in the GTA. If they exceed that margin or are near it, and their volumes are still strong, there’s an advantage in lowering the price in the evening.

Some areas in the GTA and surrounding areas have lower prices than others. Why? 

Areas outside of Toronto tend to be very good at all times. Prices are always a little less. Prices of fuel tend to be a little more competitive in markets like London, Peterborough and Kitchener to a certain extent. Average prices will be two to three cents a litre cheaper than in the GTA. There are exceptions within the GTA, in places where you would least expect it. You will see gas stations anywhere near a Costco station lowering their prices.

Are you ever surprised by the prices after you’ve made your predictions?

My predictions are based on wholesale prices and average retail margins. I can’t predict what retailers are going to do to drop prices, how they are going to apply their eight-cent retail margin, or if they are going to do that at all. I’d be better at picking a lottery for $70 million than I would be figuring out whether, and at what time, a gas station will do that. Gas stations have control over the last eight cents (in the cost of) a litre of gasoline. That’s all the control they have, and they often exercise that to the benefit of consumers.

Some people drive their car and won’t fill up until there’s less than a quarter of a tank or less. What’s your thoughts about that?

I don’t think you want to let it go right to empty, especially taking into consideration the age of your vehicle because deposits and impurities can clog up your filter and effect the fuel system. That’s not to suggest gas stations sell dirty fuel, but over time you do accumulate things. Near empty is fine, but don’t push your luck. It’s also not great for your fuel pump. I have run out of gasoline many, many times.

Wait, the guru of gas has run out of gas?

About eight years ago I took my daughters to a soccer game and after dropping them off and heading to the gas station I ran out of fuel. I had to walk a block, purchase a Jerry can and, embarrassingly, get $8 worth. I vividly recall the guy at the counter relishing in my ordeal and exclaiming, “You’re the gas guy and you ran out of gas?”

Have you ever gone to the gas station when it’s been jammed with people trying to fill up?

I think that happens more often than I realize. Maybe after doing this for 30 years, I realize there’s no need to be (waiting in line) or for panic buying because I know what the prices will be over the next few days. But you can’t help but wonder why people would take the time to line up. I have a membership at Costco and it’s the same thing there. For five cents a litre less (than at other gas stations) people are willing to wait in line half an hour.

One final question, do you get paid for your information? 

I am self-funded. Years of work prior and after my stint in politics have been rewarding and I have a good pension from being a member of parliament. People will call it the gold-plated pension, and that’s what I have.

But my work doesn’t require a lot of resources, especially in the digital age where websites and social media allow things to be done without a lot of money. It’s a compliment to my work and pioneering that other people are doing this now. Toronto’s 680 News, for example, has a person doing the same thing, albeit just the day before. Imitation is the best form of flattery. I don’t see myself doing this when I’m 80.

So, you love what you are doing? 

I do, and I hope it helps people save money. My tombstone will no doubt have a gas pump This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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