HOUGHTON LAKE, Mich. — Gas prices are tumbling around the country — but things got a little out of hand in Michigan this weekend.
At least three gas stations in the Houghton Lake region engaged in a price war that briefly let drivers pay less than 50 cents a gallon on Sunday.
If the stations were looking for attention for their low prices, they got it.
Prices at the Beacon & Bridge Market went as low as 47 cents a gallon after starting the day at $1.77, according to GasBuddy, a service that allows users to track gas prices.
“It was crazy. The police were directing traffic. Totally insane,” one Beacon & Bridge Market employee told CNNMoney. The employee confirmed the 47-cent price but asked to remain anonymous.
The nearby Marathon Gas one-upped that ridiculous price by slashing gas to 46 cents a gallon, according to Judy Miracle, an employee at the station.
“Customers were shocked — and happy,” she said.
The Citgo in Houghton Lake was also involved in the price slashing, according to GasBuddy.
Gas prices have been dropping across the country thanks to the crash in crude oil prices below $30 a barrel. The national average for a gallon fell to $1.89 on Monday, down from $3.68 in July 2014, according to AAA. A month ago the national average was about $2 a gallon.
But don’t expect to fill up your tank for 50 cents a gallon any time soon.
The Michigan price war appears to be more of a publicity stunt than part of the broader trend of falling prices.
GasBuddy said all three stations that dramatically cut prices this weekend are known to have previously engaged in one-off price wars.
“It’s a quirk, a gimmick, a lark — and not anything related to the oil price collapse,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at the Oil Price Information Service.
The price strategy might draw attention — but at a cost. Given wholesale costs and state and federal taxes, pricing a gallon at 46 cents is basically like “selling free gas,” Kloza said.