Back in 2005, I posted this table on Cheap Gas vs other items; it contained the following table:
Other “Refined” Products Compared with Gasoline

Product Unit Cost Price per Gallon
Lipton Ice Tea $1.19/16 oz $9.52 per gallon
Ocean Spray $1.25/16 oz $10.00 per gallon
Gatorade $1.59 /20 oz $10.17 per gallon
Diet Snapple
(preferably Peach)
$1.29/16 oz $10.32 per gallon
Evian water $1.49 /9 oz $21.19 per gallon
Whiteout $1.39 /7 oz $25.42 per gallon
Brake Fluid $3.15/12 oz $33.60 per gallon
Scope $0.99/1.5 oz $84.48 per gallon
Vick’s Nyquil $8.35/6 oz $178.13 per gallon
Pepto Bismol $3.85/4 oz $123.20 per gallon

Originally published at The Big Picture, March 31 2005

There have been several new variations of this recently, including this version from Good:



Hat tip Flowing Data

Category: Digital Media, Inflation

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

30 Responses to “Read it here First: Prices of Gallons”

  1. RW says:

    I remember this and some of the others too and what got to me most was the price of designer bottled water. Not simply because the price could not be justified in terms of the contents but because of the heavy external costs; e.g., manufacture and transport energy loss and waste removal/(long-term) pollution.

    It is true, a lot of the products in the list are discretionary and increasing suburbanization as well as lack of national commitment to alternative engines and mass transport have made gasoline damn near as essential as food for many people but …

    What I really can’t get over is how most of this would already be behind us if Jimmy Carter had just been a better salesman back in 1977. Remember this?

  2. michaelb says:

    Hey BR – do you still plan to write The End of QEII part 3? It got sidetracked by Japan tragedy.


    BR: Yes —

  3. KidDynamite says:

    but but but but… I hate this chart. See, If I used 20 gallons of Tide a week, or ate 20 gallons of Yogurt a week, then it would be relevant. But I don’t. So even if the price of Guiness, or Evian, or shampoo went up 30%, it wouldn’t really effect us. The same is not true for oil and gas, obviously.

    The fact that Robitussin is more expensive per gallon, by a large margin, than gasoline is largely irrelevant. The fact that I spend a lot more per week on gasoline than Robitussin is the relevant point.

  4. curbyourrisk says:

    What’s the point of showing this? Diet Snapple??? I don’t have to buy that in order to get to work. WE HAVE TO BUY GAS to do things. We don’t HAVE to buy any of the items you are comparing it to. Plus…anything on that list has cheaper , although not as good variants. Gas is gas and you pretty much pay the same anywhere you go…..except maybe Jersey.

  5. curbyourrisk says:

    On top of that….the more you buy of any of those items the cheaper it gets. Buy the larger size to save money. Can you do that with Gasoline???? Whther I fill up my gas can or you fill up your RV…..IT is all the SAME price….

  6. I HAVE to buy Diet Peach Snapple. I gots no choice — its too delicious!

  7. nicejob says:

    I don’t need it to get to work, but I need it to do work, sometimes; few refined liquids exceed the price of inkjet printer ink.

  8. Soylent Green Is People says:

    Printer ink is free if you work at the Fed.

  9. Northeaster says:

    I need fuel to get to work, approximately $52.00 for a Mon-Fri commute at today’s prices.

    Bottled water? Anyone that pays for it is an idiot.

    Soft Drinks? Maybe use certain one’s as a mixer once in a while, but otherwise, anyone that drinks it by the gallon is a fat, unhealthy slob, and deserves what they get.

    Cough syrup/NyQuil? Seriously, anyone that uses that by the gallon is an addict. Unless you have a chronic condition, 1 bottle should last years, 2 if you have kids.

    Lot’s of other discretionary stuff on there. If people can afford it, or are too dumb and buy it, good luck. I’ll stick to clipping coupons with my wife and buying things we NEED.

  10. Julia Chestnut says:

    Where the @$&&#$ are they buying those things? Because they are certainly paying too much. I just bought milk yesterday — $2.77 a gallon. Bleach? I don’t pay more than about $1.90 a gallon. Course, I don’t buy my champagne by the gallon.. . . .but seriously.

    Of course, I’m getting gas for $3.55 a gallon too, so I think whoever made this chart is getting ripped off.

  11. Jojo says:

    As has been pointed out, we all use a lot less of these comparison products than we do of gasoline.

    I guess maybe we should hope that cars DON’T get more fuel efficient. For otherwise, oil companies will have more ability to raise the price of gas to maintain their margins.

  12. Hunin says:

    Some of the prices are based on a small unit like 12 oz bottle instead of the bulk unit. I don’t know about you, but I don’t buy gas 12 ounces at a time. I buy it in bulk at 10 to 20 gallons at a time. The price of gas reflects this bulk purchasing. So the prices for other products should support bulk purchasing as well. However they don’t which would lower the price of the products drastically. Below are two common examples.

    If was to buy water, I wouldn’t buy a 12 oz bottle. I would purchase a larger bottle of water. Evian sells 1.5L bottles for $2.99. There are 3.79 liters to a gallon so the price per gallon is actually $7.55 instead of $21.19.

    Same thing with the beer. I would buy a keg instead of 11 12 oz bottle from a bar. The price for a 50L keg of Guiness is $160 and there are 13.2 gallons in the keg. So the price per gallon of Guiness is actually $12.12 instead of $64.00.

  13. Jake S. says:

    Two thoughts:

    1) Not only, as many point out, do we need and consume a lot more than these other products, but gas prices actually drive the prices of these other products as well. So your $128 bottle of Robitussin is partially priced that way due to the $4 gallon of gas.

    2) KidDynamite: speak for yourself about Guinness :P

  14. DC says:

    “I need fuel to get to work, approximately $52.00 for a Mon-Fri commute at today’s prices.”

    If “Northeaster” is a geography-based moniker then let’s hope you work the early shift and you’re already home at 3:54pm Eastern.

    Otherwise one might be concerned you’re chiseling on your employer, and clearly no self-respecting coupon-clipper would do such a thing.

  15. Bill in SF says:

    Since retiring, I’ve been leaving my car in the garage and taking public transit.
    I recently went 6 months between fill-ups.

    Unfortunately, my waistline confirms the trend that I’m consuming more Guinness than gasoline.
    Where do you get those 50L kegs?

  16. wally says:

    That chart would be more useful if it showed the mpg you could get from each of those things.

  17. Robespierre says:

    @Barry Ritholtz Says:
    “I HAVE to buy Diet Peach Snapple. I gots no choice — its too delicious!”

    And I do hope you do not drink 40 gallons of that stuff a week ;)

  18. econimonium says:

    I take umbrage to: “WE HAVE TO BUY GAS to do things”. NO, no you don’t. You CHOOSE to live where you do, and if you lived in a city, like I do, the price of gas would be pretty much irrelevant to you as it is to me on a daily basis as I take the train/subway whenever I want to do something. I drive about once a week.

    So please spare me this. I bet you drive an SUV too or a gas-guzzling something or other like the 90 pound lady driving the Excursion I saw trying to park it today near where I live. I was imagining how much it cost her to drive that into the city every day (plus tolls etc). And, btw, I drive a honking 335i that I would take to the grave with me (the acceleration is awesome) and it sucks gas like a hoover. But you know what? I don’t care. I drive when I WANT to not because I NEED to.

    So there. Crybaby. I hope it hits $10 a gallon.

  19. rip says:


    I have always been fascinated by what people choose to pay for WATER.

    But then again, I guess it’s cheaper than lipstick as a status symbol.

    And perhaps not as loaded with estrogen and other hormones. Perhaps.

  20. Truthsayer says:

    Interesting to put in to perspective, but none of those products run your vehicle….so kind of a worthless comparison. Newsletter subscriptions are worth more per “gallon”…so what?

  21. Truthsayer says:

    BillinSF…so you went 6 months between fill ups? Relevant? NO – you still paid money for the so called “mass transit” which is nothing but a tax payer subsidized piece of crap…you paid a fare and the tax payers got drilled in the back door for this subsidized money-losing POS……congratulations.

  22. socaljoe says:

    Come on people… I thought this was an investment related blog.

    My energy investment returns due to rising gasoline prices are at least 1000 times greater than my incremental cost of transportation.

    A decade from now, $4 gas will be a fond memory.

  23. curbyourrisk says:

    Econimonium::: Sorry…Can;t afford to liv ein the city. Not everyone like you makes the big bucks I guess, so you can kiss my ass. I am so fucking glad you can afford $10 a gallon. Not everyone else can. Well, Barry can, but that a different story.

    As for the guy who said no one guys gas in small amounts. On weekends, I mow my own lawn. Every 3 weeks I have to go fill up my 1 gallon gas can. It is the same exact price if I buy 1 gallon, or if I fill up my car……

  24. Taliesyn says:

    Well this is all well and go insofar as putting consumable liquids in perspective to try and soften the blow of more spending-money going into the gas tank and thus less so elsewhere like buying all of those consumable liquids whose price per gallon have to play 2nd & 3rd fiddle to that precious commodity *personal and shipping/delivery conveyance*.
    Thus how high do the prices per gallon on the consumable fluids have to inflate due to the cost of fuel to deliver them before you realize this is comparison is rather ridiculous as a bromide, more like a meaningless placebo.
    I’m afraid these charts are little more that the poster children of the mother of all strawmen. We can live without any form of sugar-soaked soda or alcohol on any regular basis ( your milage may vary ) , but as for me the only drinking I do is purely part of a social thing and if I can’t afford to get to my watering hole of choice , in my case a fine microbrew with a southwestern theme named *Sweetewater* , because money must unavoidably be spent to go to work instead , which is *not* an option , then wither the *consumer led* economy. Where I live I would have to drive just to go dumpster diving and that’s just to get there before the crowds do.
    Really meaningless comparison that utterly obscures the seriousness of the effect on the overall economy by the price of vehicular fuel.

  25. socaljoe says:

    According to Ken DeFeyes, in his book “Hubbert’s Peak”, a gallon of gas will do the work of a dozen men in one day. If you don’t believe it, try moving a ton of material 10 miles without machinery. In that context, $4 is dirt cheap.

    Our society is based on the false assumption of perpetually cheap energy which will reveal itself to be unsustainable as fossil transportation fuel becomes ever more expensive. About one half of earth’s one time endowment has been consumed… and it was the low hanging fruit. The second half will be much, much harder to produce and we will have to share it with many more consumers.

    Be prepared for much greater change in the coming decades.

  26. socaljoe

    Thanks for the insights — I agree

    I found the entire analogy amusing, and many people have no idea of the true costs of gasoline . . .

  27. houseman says:

    Yes price of gas is a problem since the Carter years and his dept of energy. Its growth has exceeeded the increase in gas. Yet this irrelevent chart seeming to justify increase is of no help. 6 ozs of nyquil will last me 4-5 years. 6 ozs. of gas will start my moped but not my truck or car.

  28. Greg0658 says:

    we’ve been captured as a race – but try this weekend to survive For (in this order) Self, family, immediate community, greater community and lastly The Man (if ya know what I mean)*

    * coda – (in case ya don’t) – the CIC -corporation industrial complex

    and psst – before submit (talking my book) the spirIT will be there too

    “its too delicious!” fun thread :-)