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These States Don’t Trust You to Pump Your Own Gas

These States Don’t Trust You to Pump Your Own Gas

Do you know that there are US states where you can’t pump your own gas? This may seem strange to most of us since only two states have this law, but it’s true. Keep reading to learn some history of full-service gas stations, which two states don’t allow you to pump your own gas and why, and advice on tipping at a full-service gas station. Let’s dive in!

Why New Jersey Doesn’t Let People Pump Their Own Gas

What Is the History of Full-Service Gas Stations?

Full-service gas stations entered American culture after self-serve pumps. However, in 1905, a self-serve pump was merely a pump on a curb. Before that, people would purchase their gasoline in cans from grocery stores.

As the automobile industry grew, car owners demanded easier and increased access to gasoline to power their vehicles. In 1913, the first full-service gas station opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Unlike curbside pumps, the full-service station was one of the first businesses to set itself back from the street to avoid interrupting traffic. 

The station provided gas and a place to pull over and rest for drivers and passengers. Attendants could fill your tank while you purchased soda and other small snacks. Stations operated in the comfort of a covered space, keeping cars and people out of the elements. The first full-service station employed one manager and four attendants, all ready to fuel cars and help with necessary repairs.

As a result, the culture of gassing up changed. No longer did people have to exit their vehicles directly on the street. They pulled off the road and waited for an attendant to provide service. Today, while most gas stations are no longer full-service, they still resemble the gas stations from the early 1900s. 

New Jersey gas stations
Not all states allow self-service gas station options.

Why Did Gas Stations Start Switching to Self-Service?

Because people learned to love the culture of the full-service station and to have an attendant waiting on them, it took some time for the idea of self-service stations to formulate. One of the first attempts at a self-service station was in 1947 at a gas station in Los Angeles. 

The owner, Frank Urich, hired girls on roller skates to roll around collecting money and resetting pumps to zero for the next customer. He lured people into his unbranded station by stating, “Save 5 cents, serve yourself, why pay more?” With an unbranded station, he could charge less.

This marketing style drew in some customers, and a few unbranded stations attempted to follow suit. However, many people were loyal to specific brands, so it didn’t catch on. Then in 1964, Denver businessman, John Roscoe, opened the first self-serve gas station with remote-controlled pumps. Technology had finally entered the gasoline business.

However, in 1964, most states prohibited self-serve pumps due to state fire codes. It would be ten years before the transition from full to self-service finally took hold. That was thanks to the gas shortage in ‘73 and ‘74. Due to long lines, California passed a law that stated every station had to post its prices. Now that people knew the price of gas ahead of time and unbranded stores could sell gas at lower prices, people were more likely to drop their brand loyalty for affordable gas prices. Full-service branded stations had met their downfall.

Pro Tip: Before you make your fill-up request from the gas attendant, find out Should You Put Ethanol Free Gas in Your Tank?

Full-service gas station
Relax in your car while a gas attendant fills up your tank for you.

What Are the States Where You Can’t Pump Your Own Gas Still Today?

Oregon and New Jersey are states where you can’t pump your own gas. However, there are exceptions. 

Oregon

While it’s a state law in Oregon that you cannot pump your own gas, there are many exceptions in this state. If your vehicle uses diesel, pump away. If you own a motorcycle or scooter, you can pump your own gas across the entire state. And if you live in a county with less than 40,000 people, you can pump there, too. Otherwise, Oregon is a state where you cannot pump your own gas.

New Jersey

New Jersey is the only other state where you can’t pump your own gas. But unlike Oregon, there are no exceptions to this rule. It doesn’t matter if you own a diesel pusher, a motorcycle, or a scooter; you cannot pump gas. It also doesn’t matter the size of the county you live in. Throughout New Jersey, it is against the law to pump your gas.

Gas attendant in Oregon
Oregon and New Jersey are the two states where you can’t pump your own gas.

Why Are You Not Allowed to Pump Your Own Gas in Oregon and New Jersey?

When the first self-stations began popping up around 1947, two states passed laws banning self-service gas stations. According to an article on CNBC, New Jersey passed this law in 1949, citing safety issues and protection from large gas companies taking over smaller mom-and-pop shops.

Oregon followed suit in 1951, citing safety concerns but focusing more on safety for the elderly, those with disabilities, and kids. The state was also concerned about possible toxic fumes causing health issues.

Can You Get a Ticket for Pumping Your Own Gas in Oregon or New Jersey? 

While it is illegal to pump your own gas at most gas stations in Oregon, if you do so, you won’t receive a fine. However, the gas station could get a penalty. If somebody complains about someone pumping their gas, the Fire Marshall could fine the gas station up to $500. Still, this is a rare occurrence.

As for New Jersey, the fine is also $500. Like Oregon, you’ll be more likely to receive a scolding than a ticket. These states don’t want you to pump your gas, but if you do, you won’t get into trouble.

Cars refilling at gas station
Tipping your gas attendant in New Jersey and Oregon is not required, but always appreciated.

Why Is Oregon Trying to Reverse the Gas Pumping Law?

Maybe that’s partly why Oregon is trying to reverse the gas pumping law. If there’s no enforcement, why have it? Oregon already changed some components of its gas pumping law when it allowed people in less populous counties to pump gas.

Some people now want an entire reversal of the law. One bill in progress wouldn’t wholly reverse the law, but it attempts to include self-service pumps while maintaining full-service pumps. Gas prices would remain the same. In other words, one gas price couldn’t be higher than the other.

The law hasn’t changed yet, but with Oregon’s relaxation of self-service in counties with less than 40,000 people and for specific vehicles, it won’t be a surprise when Oregon becomes the 49th state allowing self-service at gas pumps. Will New Jersey be right behind them?

Pro Tip: Want to save money at the gas pump? Find out Does Cruise Control Really Save Gas?

Are You Supposed to Tip Gas Attendants?

We may not know the answer to whether New Jersey will let go of their strict no self-serve gas pumps. However, with full-service, unlike a restaurant, people do not expect tips in these two states where you can’t pump your gas. 

If an attendant goes above and beyond their expected duties, they appreciate a tip, even if it’s not a requirement. In the end, tipping gas attendants is up to you. If you tip; generally, one to two dollars is sufficient. 

New bill would allow Oregon drivers to pump their own gas

Think About What Full-Service Gas Stations Used to Be Like the Next Time You Pump Your Own Gas

Can you imagine tipping one or two dollars in the early days of full-service gas stations? That would be your entire fillup cost. Prices have drastically increased over the years, and for all of the states but two of them, you can now pump your own gas. 

The days of service station attendants catering to your car’s every need are gone unless you are in Oregon or New Jersey. These two states don’t allow you to pump gas, but you might feel you’re royalty when pulling into a gas station here. After all, the gas station attendants are there to serve you. 

Would you want the full-service gas station laws reversed in New Jersey and Oregon? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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Chuck57

Tuesday 14th of March 2023

Doesn't matter to me one way or the other

Theodore Ancrum

Monday 13th of March 2023

Im a long haul trucker I pump my own deisel all time at exit 7 Borden town in New Jersey off the turnpike they don't have attendants

Tracy

Saturday 11th of March 2023

I live in Oregon and I absolutely LOVE that I don't have to pump my own gas! It was actually one of the pros of for moving here. :) I hope it doesn't go away.