I travel extensively in the Western US and find that the farther south you travel the greater the problems you will have.
I don’t understand how people posting here are having problems in Oregon. In this state it is actually illegal to pump your own fuel so you are forced to pay attendant directly anyway and if the gas nozzles clicks off prematurely the attendant will not attempt to put anymore fuel in even if your tank is still essentially empty so you will have to drive to another station. (In California they will fine you if they catch you “topping off” and there are signs in Spanish everywhere to this effect)
On a side note, for fun sit at a self serve gas bar in any adjoining state and watch Oregon drivers blow their horns and wait impatiently for someone to come out and fill them. Anyone travelling out of state for their first time has never pumped fuel before so this bizarre spectacle is pretty common.
In Los Angeles fuel is a crap shoot if you don’t speak Spanish. Chevron workers in LA for example won’t let you put in more then $40.00 dollars at some of their stations regardless of your ability to prepay so be prepared for that little surprise.
The more Spanish your neighbourhood of fuelling choice speaks the less fuel you’ll be allowed to actually pump. I’ve never found an attendant who speaks English at these stations so I don’t know why that is.
When it comes to limiting fuel purchases every station and state is different and every attendant swears it is the credit card or debit companies who’ve set the limits so if you drive a pickup truck or RV plan on being limited to anywhere from $75.00 – $125.00 even at truck stops. There is absolutely no consistency from state to state or station to station and this pisses off Americans just as much as us.
For RV and pickup owners the upper end max limit under the best conditions is still only 3/4 of a tank full so you’ll always have to go in anyways and prepay if you’re doing anything other then topping off.
Another note on American gas stations for Canadians: These are places more for where you go to buy liqour, pop, fantasy knives or potato chips. If it is a truck stop then include movies, stuffed animals, tattoo stickers and CB radios.
Selling fuel is really a secondary consideration for American gas stations and the pumps only exist as a way to attract consumers to their stores for lottery tickets, booze and junk food. Do not expect to find bulbs, belts, fuses, oil or any of the other things you might need to continue motoring.
If (and that’s a big IF) they have an air pump and it works you’ll pay $1.00 for every three minutes. The pumps are weak everywhere in every state at every station and you will average 10 PSI filled per minute so if you have a pickup truck tire that takes 80 psi it will cost $2-3 to fully fill depending on how low you are. Carry lots of quarters!
Please note that in California they have to let you fill your tires for free though if you buy your gas at that station.
When it comes to findng a pump without zip code authoristion then pick small local mom/pop type stations or card locks and it will work every time without restriction or fuel limits. It is only the chains that try to make it difficult.
If you are using a VISA my experience is that 50% of chain stations will except your postal code instead of zip just don`t expect it to. The two exceptions are Chevron and Valero. These stations do not tolerate foreigners to pay at pump.
Happy motoring in the USA.