Gas Prices in 1939

Those were simpler (and cheaper) times!



16¢ in 1939 dollars equals a little less that $3.00 in 2019 dollars. Not actually cheaper.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, today’s prices in 2019 are 1,751.41% higher than average prices throughout 1939. Correspondingly, 16 cents in 1939 equates to almost $3.00 in 2019.


I paid $0.19/gal in 1960s!


Just look at the freeways. The cost of gasoline doesn’t appear to have reduced traffic volumes much if any.


The gasoline also wasn’t as well refined as today’s; and they were adding tetraethyl lead to reduce engine knock and improve longevity of engine parts. The lead additive is still a worldwide environmental contaminant.


I paid 15.9 cents per gallon at Chief Timp Conoco in Orem, UT in 1969. Plus I got my windows washed, oil checked, and tire pressure checked (on request).


And also a complicated time. I lived in Los Angeles at the time of the first Oil Crisis. For the first time gasoline went above $1. Unfortunately the pump price went to only $0.999. Some stations solved this by selling by the liter (about one US quart). The prices became about $0.30.


In the late ’60s or early ’70s, I remember seeing a gas pump with a price of $0.99 per gallon(!!) It turned out that they had a spare pump that they were allowing a local helicopter pilot to use for helicopter fuel. Every so often, he’d set down right at the station to refuel. $0.99 was thought to be so outrageously high that none of their regular customers would ever ask to use it.


When I got my first car gas varied between $.33/35 cents per gallon (’60/’61 VW, bought used in ’67; no gas gauge, it had a 10-gallon tank and a one-gallon reserve tank). I calculated my miles per gallon and usually drove a whole month to/from work, grocery store, etc., without having to refill the tank. To travel across three and a half states on vacation to visit my family, I calculated mileage between towns, stopped in large towns where I figured gas stations would be open 24 hrs, and (luckily) never had any problems doing that 2400 mile round trip with the VW, or my next car, a ’72 Dodge Colt I drove off the lot brand new (best car I ever owned). Those were the days….


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