Why Don’t New Jerseyans Pump Gas?

by Dyquan Waters
gas pumping new jersey

Besides Oregon, New Jersey is the only state in the country that prohibits residents from pumping their own gas. Following the early 1900s, cars became more accessible to people of the middle class. Prior to this, mostly the elites, upper class, and engineers were the ones with cars. They acquired fuel mostly via delivery or barrel refill stations, usually at a local supermarket or hardware store. They had to be knowledgeable about vehicles and how they function or wealthy enough to pay someone who was.

However, once people of the middle class began to have access to vehicles, they were not only uninformed about how cars worked but also not wealthy enough to pay a professional mechanic for routine maintenance. Thus, came the well-respected gas attendant who, then, was a lot more knowledgeable about automobiles than the average driver.

The attendants checked fluids, tires, and batteries, and completed maintenance for customers who bought replacements from the gas stations. It was convenient for the customers because they didn’t know how to do it themselves and also beneficial for gas stations as it made upselling easier. An attendant might let one know that their tires should be replaced before their safety is compromised. The average person then, not knowing better, would be inclined to complete the service then and there. They buy the tires from the gas station, and the attendant can replace them quickly and efficiently, charging whatever they wanted for labor. It was what some would call a win-win.

Photo from Pixabay

In 1949, following concerns regarding fire hazards, safety compliance, toxic fumes, and car thefts, New Jersey passed the very first Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act. Shortly after in 1951, Oregon adopted a similar bill–making them the only state to follow suit. While Oregon has allowed residents of its least populated counties to pump their own gas, the Garden State will not let up.

While several lawmakers and self-service advocacy groups have commented on the self-service versus full-service debacle, there is one New Jersey-based organization making great strides toward reforming the now 73-year-old bill. Fuel Your Way NJ is a coalition of gas station owners, volunteers, and other parties of interest who are fighting for full-service refueling to be optional. This would result in motorists having a choice between self-service or full-service. Best known for their Self-Serve Day of Awareness on May 13, 2022, they argue that allowing self-service refueling could potentially save residents 10-15 cents a gallon. While many fear that they won’t hold up their word, gas stations that are part of the coalition claim that the money saved on paying attendants will be used to make the price of gasoline cheaper.

Photo from Pexels

There are, though, many issues with the arguments made to support self-service. One is the claim that New Jersey residents pay more for gas than those in the neighboring states due to the prohibition on self-service. This is false, as gas prices are about 3 cents less than the 2022 national average and up to 14 cents less than in New York, a self-service state. Gas prices are majorly comprised of taxes, crude oil, and other costs associated with conducting business like equipment, rent, and insurance. That said, permitting self-service at the gas pump is unlikely to make much of a difference for New Jersey residents.

Furthermore, it seems that the folks spearheading the self-service movement have stakes in the oil and retail gasoline industries, causing a conflict of interest. The founders of self-service movements are not residents who want the right to choose but more so investors, business owners, and other related parties who are using their influence to spread propaganda for their own financial gain. There is nothing in place that will hold businesses accountable for making gas cheaper, having full-service pumps available to people who live with disabilities, nor ensuring job security for gas attendants who rely on their salaries to live.

About the Author/s

Editorial Intern

Dyquan Waters is an Editorial Intern at New Jersey Digest who loves cooking plant-based meals and going camping. When he's not watering his plants, Dyquan enjoys brewing his own tea.

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21 comments

Ed April 14, 2023 - 2:41 pm

Because we don’t want to and the attendants will lose their jobs if there is self service. If the parkway and turnpike becomes all ez pass people will be out of work.Automation takes jobs away.

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M April 15, 2023 - 12:53 pm

There’s better jobs out there aside from being a gas attendant

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Tim wolbert April 17, 2023 - 11:25 am

The public is forgetting that the insurance will be more for the service station because now anybody can pump gas as opposed to just the attendant.

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ed April 14, 2023 - 3:04 pm

Because they don’t want to and the attendants will lose their jobs. When the parkway and turnpike is all EZ pass many will lose their jobs. Automation puts people out of work and that is a bad thing.

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Tim April 17, 2023 - 10:15 am

Tolls where to be removed when the Parkway and Turnpike were paid for. That was probably 40 years ago or more. Once they get in your pocket, nothing else matters. Having the option of full or self service has served 48 states very well for many years, and will justify a few cents more a gallon at full service pumps.

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Pontefractious April 14, 2023 - 3:56 pm

Changing the law will actually make no difference at all. Most gas stations have a single attendant. He/she would have to be there to attend people paying cash, take deliveries, handle emergencies and man the retail store. Larger stations might be able to dispense with an employee but they would be the exception. So there may be some economy gained but not enough to change the price of gas materially. Of course, service would probably be quicker.

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Barbara April 14, 2023 - 3:59 pm

I , for one, like having an attendant pump my gas. I am a senior citizen who really appreciates this service. Saying that gas prices will go down if self-service is implemented is just not true. Leave the law where it is.

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Sathya Prabhakar August 12, 2023 - 1:00 am

No! The law should not be left the way it is. It needs to change. People shall have their own choice as to whether they want to pump it themselves or have somebody do it for them. They way it is now is absolutely wrong!

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Mace Moneta April 14, 2023 - 5:16 pm

Maybe gas stations that don’t want to provide full service should convert to or augment with electric charging stations, and add a cafe/shop to upsell while customers charge. The number of EVs on the road is growing rapidly.

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Bob Nelson April 14, 2023 - 5:55 pm

In Florida this is what happened. At the beginning they said they would still have some full service pumps. It was maybe 3-5 cents more a gallon then self service. Then after awhile it was a $1.00 or $2.00 more a gallon for full service then they got rid of them all. The only person that makes out is the gas station owner not the consumer. Have fun pumping your own gas when it is 10 degrees out.

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Cheri Jefferson April 14, 2023 - 9:02 pm

I don’t want to pump gas! We all know it’s not going to save us any money.

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RALFYBABY April 14, 2023 - 9:39 pm

Let them bag groceries, nice warm indoors.
I hate not being able to fill up my car myself

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Jenny April 14, 2023 - 10:42 pm

I feel much safer not having to get out of my car to pump gas. When I travel to other states it makes me nervous because you don’t have a choice. You have to get out of your vehicle and stand outside while filling your tank. I prefer to stay in my car with doors locked and in full control of my vehicle. NJ residents don’t give up this luxury and safety!!! Definitely a safety issue in this day and age.

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Dave April 15, 2023 - 12:41 am

No problem with a station offering both self-service and full service as long as same price per gallon for either one. When my mother moved to Delaware in 1994, the stations there offered both, but full serve was an extra 25¢ per gallon. Gas in NJ is not higher because of lack of self serve. It was cheaper than all surrounding states until they skyrocketed the fuel tax a short time back. From about 10 cents per gallon to 35 cents per gallon.

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Louis Mazzella April 15, 2023 - 8:21 am

Just like they were going to do away with the gas tax doing the 5.00a gallon gas last year what makes me believe anything the government says.By the way California has pump your own and they have the highest gas in the nation .

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John April 15, 2023 - 9:56 am

Because NJ residents are lazy. They rather have someone else do it than do it themselves.

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Jan April 15, 2023 - 6:25 pm

Being an ultimate Jersey gal at an advanced age i have always been proud to not pump gas. It will not affect gas prices and may potentially put people out of work. It is one of the great perks of living in the Garden State.

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Ed R April 18, 2023 - 9:14 am

I’d like some pumps where I can pump my own gas … the problem is often wasting my time waiting for an attendant, then their putting it on the slowest fill rate possible, then waiting for someone to return so I can pay. Give people a choice … keep some with an attendant for those who’d like that

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Judy April 18, 2023 - 9:57 am

When we first moved to Paramus the workers walked to behind your garage to collect your garbage. The union won the right to have you bring your garbage cans to the curb. Unintended consequences: Some trash cans are at curb too long. Some wind up in the street.

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Sathya Prabhakar August 12, 2023 - 1:01 am

People shall have their own choice as to whether they want to pump it themselves or have someone do it for them. It shouldn’t be only one way. The way it is now is wrong!

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Nishi March 7, 2024 - 9:06 pm

It is so stupid to want to protect a dumb job like gas attendant. You want to bring back the milkman as well? JFC.

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