The Two States Where It’s Illegal to Pump Your Own Gas

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A gas station employee about to pump gas for a customer in a state where you can't pump your own gas

In case you didn’t know, it’s illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon and New Jersey. If you’re not from either of those states where you can’t pump your own gas, you’re probably wondering what on Earth they were thinking.

Believe it or not, these states argue that there are reasons behind it. They have nothing to do with being lazy. Keep reading to find out more!

What’s the Difference Between Self-Service and Full-Service Stations?

A self-service gas station allows the customer to pump their own gas. This is what we’re used to across most of the United States. You pull up to a pump, turn off your vehicle, get out, pump your own gas, pay, and drive off. 

At full-service gas stations, such as in states where you can’t pump your own gas, a station attendant pumps the gas for you. The attendant will sometimes also clean your windshield.

They’ll do other minor maintenance tasks, but that isn’t often the case these days.

In the past, when full-service gas stations were the norm across the U.S., attendants had to do much more than pumping fuel. They would clean your windshield, check fluid levels like oil and coolant, and check the air pressure on tires.

They would also do other tasks that made sure the vehicle was operating properly. Many even did minor repairs.

A gas station employee about to pump gas for a customer in a state where you can't pump your own gas

Are There States Where You Can’t Pump Your Own Gas?

There are two states where you can’t pump your own gas. In New Jersey and Oregon, it’s unlawful in most instances for you to do so. You are to stay in your vehicle and allow the gas station attendant to pump gas for you in these two states.

New Jersey has required full-service gas stations since 1949. Oregon followed suit two years later in 1951.

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Why Is It Illegal to Pump Your Own Gas?

The majority of reasons cited by New Jersey and Oregon for saying you can’t pump your own gas are safety concerns.

Because gasoline is a dangerous substance, they feel it’s in the public’s best interest for gas station employees to pump gas.

A fire hazard is one of the key reasons for requiring full-service gas stations in New Jersey and Oregon.

Both states where you can’t pump your own gas say that because gasoline is so flammable, it’s safer for trained employees to ensure that they turn off the vehicle and no one is smoking around the filling stations.

Along these same lines, in self-service stations, it’s a cashier’s responsibility to watch for customers that forget to turn off their vehicles or are smoking around the pumps.

Full-service states argue that this is difficult. When the cashier may be busy ringing up a customer, they often don’t have a clear line of sight of people pumping their own gas.

Having a gas station attendant that manages pumping gas ensures compliance with safety standards.

As with anything that can be dangerous, insurance is another consideration. New Jersey, in particular, has noted that allowing customers to pump their own gas is an increased liability that comes with higher insurance costs.

Gasoline also emits harmful fumes. The fumes from the gas can be dangerous, especially for pregnant women or people with respiratory issues.

What Happens If You Pump Your Own Gas in New Jersey and Oregon?

If you pump your own gas in New Jersey, it could mean a fine of between $50 and $250. If you repeat it, you could be fined up to $500.

It’s a little different in Oregon. The gas station can get a $500 fine for each person it allows to pump their gas. The customer, however, doesn’t face a fine.

If you’re uneducated on the laws of either state and start to pump your gas, an attendant will likely warn you. As long as you comply, you’re not likely to be fined.

A woman getting a ticket for pumping her own gas in a state where you can't pump your own gas

Are There Places in Oregon and New Jersey Where You Can Pump Your Own Gas?

Oregon enacted a special stipulation in its laws in 2018 for gas stations in counties with less than 40,000 people to allow folks to pump their own gas.

These are generally gas stations located in more rural areas, largely in the state’s eastern portion.

There are no such areas of the state in New Jersey. You can’t pump your gas anywhere in the Garden State.

Pro Tip: When budgeting for your RV adventures, gas will be a big-ticket item! Prepare for your trips by learning everything you need to know on RV Gas Mileage!

Can You Pump Your Own Diesel in New Jersey and Oregon?

Though gasoline is considered too dangerous to pump it yourself in Oregon, drivers with diesel-powered vehicles can pump their own fuel. That is because diesel fuel is not a Class I flammable liquid, but gasoline is.

New Jersey is the only state that requires attendants to pump fuel for all customers. There are no areas of the state where the customer is allowed to refuel their own vehicle.

A gas station employee about to pump gas for a customer in a state where you can't pump your own gas

Not Pumping Gas Means Not Watching Your Dollars Tick Away

For those of us used to pumping our own gas, it may sound a little crazy that you can’t do so in New Jersey or Oregon. However, many residents of those states don’t mind the requirement at all.

It’s a contentious issue even amongst their citizens. Many people in New Jersey and Oregon argue the merits of requiring gas station attendants to pump their gas.

Aside from safety issues cited by the states, many residents believe it provides jobs. They also believe it’s a valuable service, particularly for folks with physical challenges.

Even if you are physically able and don’t mind pumping it yourself, there’s a side benefit to fueling up in the two states where you can’t pump your own gas.

When fuel costs are sky-high, you don’t have to watch your dollars tick away on the pump!

  1. Since moving to Oregon, one attendant failed to put the cap on correctly leaking gas down the side of my IROC-Z until I reached my next destination. Also a key was lost to the locking gas cap in my K5, resulting in a locksmith destroying my gas cap so I could get fuel and drive to a parts store for a new cap. As soon as I can vote for pumping my own gas, and not requiring a helmet for adults on motorcycles, I will. I’ve been pumping gas in my parents vehicles since I was 10 with no issues. However, these professional adults can’t get it right?

  2. I am a native of New Jersey. Before I went to college in Florida, I never questioned the New Jersey law prohibiting one from pumping his or her own gas. Most New Jerseyans are never taught how to pump their own gas. However, once I struggled to learn how to pump my own gas in Florida, I concluded that self-service is really the best process. When I can pump my own gas, it is so much faster than having to wait for the “professional” gas pumper. I have never seen anyone have an accident at a gas station; this, I cannot justify our self-service prohibition. My friends in Florida are blown away that we cannot pump our own gas in New Jersey, and my friends in New Jersey are blown away that I hate the prohibition on self-service in New Jersey. Many gas pumpers speak poor English or no English, and I have had them put $50.00 into my car when I said that I wanted $15.00. I had a gas pumper break my gas cap and I have had a gas pumper forget to put my gas cap back on. I have gotten heated with many of these gas pumpers over trivial matters, such as the refusal to give me a receipt when I paid cash. If these gas pumpers lose their jobs, oh well. Many toll collectors lost their jobs after EZ Pass became a thing, and no one seemed to be crying over that rapid job loss as automated tolls became the norm. I am also a germaphobe, but I wear a disposable glove or I use hand sanitizer whenever I pump my own gas. I have pumped my own gas in a suit, in rain, and in snow, so do not get me started on clothes and weather as being motives for a lack of self-service. If disabled people can have self-service in 48 states, there is no reason why New Jersey cannot join that list. I think that New Jersey politicians are a joke for not allowing total self-service or at least an option for self-service and full-service gas stations. Gas station owners would likely save money without the need to hire pumpers. I have pumped my own gas in New Jersey many times, and I have rarely had any issues. I prefer to pay extra money to pump my own gas in New York, where it is more pricey, but where I do not need to have some idiot do this minimal task for me.

  3. I drive a diesel pickup. I will never allow anyone to fill my tank for me because there’s a chance that the attendant will try to fill it with gasoline which will ruin my fuel system and cost many thousands of dollars to fix. If they have an issue with it, I just tell them it’s federal law that owners of diesel vehicles can pump their own fuel because of this (probably wrong but it shuts them up).

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