Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Are tribal fuel stops a bargain?

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
As you roll across America in your RV, there are several constants of our universe: You’ll have to stop to refuel, and you’ll run across plenty of casinos that offer “cheap fuel.” Are the two compatible with your wallet?

Here’s an area where that good old Latin expression caveat emptor comes into clear focus. As a kid you may have gone down to the local reservation to buy fireworks – after all, you could by the “good ones” that you couldn’t get elsewhere. Plenty of adults slip off “to the rez” to buy cigarettes where prices always seem to be lower. We won’t get into ethics and health here, but when it comes to RV fuel, look closely.

One of our annual road tours takes us up the Interstate 5 corridor through Oregon. Down at the lower end, there’s a tribal casino out away from major cities. The outfit puts a real emphasis on their low-cost gas and diesel, and more than once we’ve been tempted to pull in and fill up. But on closer inspection, we’ve found the prices they offer aren’t better – in fact they’re often higher – than a truck stop a few miles up the road.

Traveling along the eastern side of the California Sierras the other day, we again spotted advertising for “low price fuel” up the road from Lone Pine. Having enough fuel for a bit more travel, we compared prices in Lone Pine and headed on up the road to the tribal casino/fuel stop. We were pleasantly surprised to find diesel at 20 cents below the prevailing price, and gasoline not far behind.

What’s the deal? Like fuel stops run by anyone, tribal fuel stations may give you a good price, or may shake you down. If you’re computer equipped and have internet access, take a few minutes and look up fuel prices along your route on a site like or similar. If you’re armed with knowledge, you may prevent yourself from getting your wallet pumped out at the pump.


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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MikeABQ (@guest_15076)
6 years ago

I filled up at one in Colorado and found out the advertised price was only applicable if you had a Casino membership card. (20 cents higher without). read the fine print on the pump.

Casey Piton (@guest_14712)
6 years ago

Don’t forget GasGuru – we’ve found them to be a bit more accurate than GasBuddy. But buyer beware, whichever app you use, often times they list the cash price or the rewards price and not the credit card price.

C B Roberts (@guest_14644)
6 years ago

Native American “reservations” and tribes are “nations” not subject to US law etc. Many court cases and arguments over the years is why gambling is now legal on Indian land. There is also wording in the US Constitution that Indians do not have to pay taxes and that is why they can have cheap cigarettes and liquor and fuel if they want to – which they do not always do. Take the 18 cents per gallon federal tax out of fuel and then whatever state tax and fuel on reservations should be cheaper than off reservation prices. Over the years we have found quite a few places where we buy fuel at considerably lower prices on the reservations. On others we have found high priced fuel. Gas Buddy is always with us where we check and then phone the fuel stop to check if the price on Gas Buddy is correct. We know of a reservation in NY state where we usually pay around 40 cents per gallon less than regular fuel stops.

Billy Bob Thorton (@guest_14601)
6 years ago

Tribes in NY, Senecas, will not honor the gambling deal enter into with the state, currently, they have witheld many millions of dollars. Certain government political subdivisions figured that payment stream into their budgets. Indian “non-givers”!

So, keep buying their gas you NY clowns.

Ron Lane (@guest_14551)
6 years ago

We always leave Ridgecrest and top off at Independence (tribal place mentioned above that was 20 cents lower than Lone Pine) while on our way to the Oregon coast. However, we’ve found that most other casino type fuel stations aren’t all necessarily a bargain. Case in point, we stay at Seven Feathers in Canyonville Oregon and their diesel price is no cheaper than the Pilot station up the highway. That said, we typically look for the convenience of entering/exiting the fuel stops rather than the price.

John Koenig (@guest_14544)
6 years ago

Government agencies do NOT monitor or test fuel pumps on Indian land.

At a “Tribal” gas station in NY, I filled up the 10 gallon tank my vehicle had. Of course, said tank was NOT empty so, a fill up should be less than 10 gallons The tribal pump said they delivered 10 gallons!

Looks like the “red skins” have found a new way to scalp the white man.

Jim (@guest_14559)
6 years ago
Reply to  John Koenig

Or maybe it has nothing to do with the colour of a person’s skin and more to do with an individual business person with questionable ethics.

Robbie (@guest_14527)
6 years ago

We carry 100 gallons of diesel, nice to have Gas Buddy where we can research and buy fuel at a discounted price.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_14517)
6 years ago

Yup. Gas Buddy can be a real help when trying to find the best prices on gas and diesel, provided the stations are frequented by other Gas Buddy members who update the prices. I’ve been in out of the way areas where the Gas Buddy prices hadn’t been updated in days or even weeks!

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