Gas Tourists Head South for Cheaper Gas

With gas prices hitting $5 per gallon, and some analysts predicting prices upward of $7 per gallon within the next two years, it's no surprise that more Americans are on a mission to find the cheapest gas. And in the extreme Southwest, some have found it; a fuel nirvana of sorts, where gasoline and diesel prices are slashed in half: Mexico.

Kerry Manchego, a construction contractor who lives east of San Diego is one of these Americans traveling south for cheaper fuel. With the housing slump, business is down and the economic downturn has hit him hard.

"A lot of people under 40 have never experienced a slow time in San Diego," said Manchego. "We've had a 15-year boom. And they're wondering what's going on. But I've been there before."

Gas Prices
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To find work, he's had to expand where he travels. "We have to drive farther," he said while behind the wheel of his pickup truck. "There's less jobs. The work is where the money is."

Extra Tanks Rise in Popularity

The surge in the price of gasoline takes a big bite out of profits. His pickup truck runs on diesel and it costs him nearly $200 to fill its 38-gallon tank.

For Manchego, desperate times have lead to desperate measures. Finally, he went to an auto shop and for $1,300 had a second tank installed in his truck. The tank holds an additional 40 gallons of fuel.

Auto shop owner Scott Young says these tanks have suddenly become very popular. He sells what are called transfer flow fuel tanks. They come in a variety of sizes.

James Blue, a manager at Young's Express Performance Center, said the tanks are flying off the shelves. "I'd say last year we moved maybe 10 the whole year. This month alone I've done 12."

Why the sudden surge in popularity? Cheap gas is one reason. Plus, Border Control won't allow drivers to fill up gasoline canisters and bring them back to the states. Americans are taking these super-size tanks and heading south of the border to Mexico.

Traveling the Distance

"A lot of people don't live right on the border so it's not like a 15-minute trip," said Blue. "It's a good hour, hour and a half trip. So they don't want to go down there every three days. They want to get a lot more, bring it back, and go down there once a week, every two weeks."

"Its $1,500 installed," said one customer, Rick Pericich. He said it's worth it. Why? There's is a glaring difference in the price of gas between the United States and Mexico.

This weekend "Nightline" followed Kerry Manchego to Tecate in Baja, Calif. It's a scenic ride and a little out of the way.

"Here we are coming into Tecate," he explained as he drove through Mexico. "It's $4.89 for No. 2 diesel and we're about a block from the border… It's going to be $2.20 three blocks away from here."

Actually, diesel was $2.15, and this weekend, gasoline was only $2.95 a gallon. In Mexico, he filled the two tanks in his truck and paid less than that $175 for 78 gallons. That's twice as much gas for nearly the same cost, with some change left over.

Service With a Smile

There have been reports that some Mexicans are outraged at Americans entering the country to buy gas. There are rumors that some stations have refused to sell gas to Americans crossing the border. That has not been Manchego's experience.

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