How to Start a Gas Station in California

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Roadside fueling stations are a classic form of American small business. In most cases, operators invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into a franchising agreement to sell a certain brand of gasoline. In California, entrepreneurs need more than money to get started. There are permits for water discharge, underground tank operation, fire inspection and a host of other issues. California also is one of a few states that require double-walled tanks regardless of how far the fuel will be from a water supply. Regulations are tough, but state government makes it easy to get in the know.

Pick a location. Decide whether to buy a station or build something new.

Research the site. Check the Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List database for Region 9, which includes California. Look up the property in the county property database to help determine value. Have an appraiser evaluate the land.

Prepare for the regulations. Visit the California Governor's Office of Economic Development website and type "Gasoline Service Station" into the search field for a list of required permits at the state and local levels.

Draft a business plan. Determine whether you're only planning to sell gas or offer vehicle repair and oil-change services. Think of how extensive you'd like a drink and snack selection to be.

Find funding. Ask friends and colleagues if they'd like to invest. Search for fellow investors on the GlobalBX online message board. Take your business plan to the bank.

Pick a franchise. Check all the big-oil company websites for business opportunities. Call contacts and company representatives referenced in the materials to pitch your business plan.

Advertise. Pick an opening date and do something to draw a crowd. Have a tent with free hot dogs out front or a person with a sign waving to traffic.

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About the Author

David Hunt became a professional journalist in 2001. He's covered courts and politics for "The Florida Times-Union" and "The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review." He also was a copy editor at "The Meadville Tribune" in northern Pennsylvania. Hunt received his Bachelor of Arts in literature from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2001.

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