Damn, liquor is pricey here
March 24, 2016 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Is it worth making a road trip from Seattle to Oregon (or further...?) to acquire a decent quantity of alcohol?

Having recently moved from Alabama to Seattle (and having left my minor collection of bottles behind), I feel the need to get at least a tolerably-stocked bar ready for a party my roommates wish to throw soon. That being said, the tax on alcohol in this (city? state?) is obscene. Is it worth my time // money to roadtrip to another state (or area of this state) to make the purchase?

Assume that I'm going to be purchasing, at minimum, 10 bottles of liquor (gotta get one of a lot of things to get started). I don't inherently mind a long drive, so long as I'm not needing to crash at a hotel and then drive back the next day.
posted by isauteikisa to Shopping (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: "Worth it" depends on how much you value your time, how good your gas mileage is, and what other value you might get from the trip.

Evidently, the alcohol tax in Oregon is $22.73/gallon, whereas it's $35.22/gallon in Washington. Assuming you are getting 10 fifths, that would be 2 gallons, or a tax difference of ((2 * 35.22) - (2 * 22.73)) which is a savings of about $25.

Seattle to Oregon is about 360 miles according to Google maps. With an average MPG of 25.5, you're looking at 360/25.5 = 14.1 gallons of gas. Gas is currently $2.267/gallon on average in Washington, so 14.1 * $2.267 = $37.647. Based on numbers alone, the cost is not worth it for just 10 bottles, but it still might be worth a trip if you're looking for an adventure.
posted by tempestuoso at 1:56 PM on March 24, 2016 [11 favorites]

I doubt it. By the time you do the beer run, and pay for gas, I don't think you'll break even and that's a lot of schlepping around.

Many stores will give you a 10% discount if you buy a case, talk to the manager and see if you can swing a deal.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:58 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well, it's clearly a thing. The Oregon Liquor Search site will tell you what's in stock where, and for what price, and when I've used it in Portland, it's been on the money; the store in Rainier over the river from Longview is probably nearest to Seattle along I-5, which is about a 300-mile round trip. You can work out whether it's worth your while.
posted by holgate at 1:59 PM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Conveniently, Oregon has an online price list, so you can see exactly how much your supplies will cost in Oregon(and if it's in stock), then do the math from there.
posted by madajb at 2:00 PM on March 24, 2016

Eh, it's probably going to be a wash. aside from Tempesuoso's great breakdown, it also depends on what you're buying. From personal experience I know that 1.75L of Bullit costs more in Oregon than it does in Washington by about 10 bucks.

It really depends on what you want.

But sweet jesus that sounds like alot of driving to save a couple bucks.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:01 PM on March 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

My mom and a few of her friends do a similar trip -- but it's 3 or 4 of them in a minivan where they remove the rear seat, and they stock up for the upcoming year, not just one party, so them come back with half a minivan load of liquor and wine. It might be more worth your while -- and more fun -- if you found a couple friends to share the trip.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:03 PM on March 24, 2016 [6 favorites]

Math correction to the gas cost: 14.1gal * $2.267/gal = $31.96 (not sure how i calculated the other number; but it's still not worth it). And I suspect gas is probably higher in Seattle than the state average.
posted by tempestuoso at 2:10 PM on March 24, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, all! Looks like if I want to really save on the tax I'll need to head east instead, but even that might not be that worth it.
posted by isauteikisa at 2:12 PM on March 24, 2016

Don't forget that there is no sales tax in Oregon, but there is sales tax on top the liquor tax in Washington.
posted by jeffamaphone at 3:27 PM on March 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

(BTW, for some back story, we traded higher prices for being able to buy liquor anywhere and not having to go to the stupid state-run stores that had terrible hours and never stocked anything good.)
posted by jeffamaphone at 3:29 PM on March 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also keep in mind that "liquor stores" are still a thing in Oregon and you can't go to the grocery or Costco to get it. No Bevmo either. Check for locations & hours if you are still considering it.
posted by peep at 3:47 PM on March 24, 2016

Might be worth going down to the CA border, honestly. Their booze prices are so cheap in comparison my eyes bug out of my head whenever I go to Costco down there .
posted by skycrashesdown at 4:32 PM on March 24, 2016

There is a liquor store almost literally right on the border when you get into Oregon; that said, it's really not worth the trip just for that. If you're down here for another reason, I'd say stock up, but the time/gas/effort is not worth what you'd save, I don't think.

As for going to the CA border, that's another four hour drive from Portland, so reeeeeeeeeeaally not worth the effort if you're driving.
posted by pdb at 4:56 PM on March 24, 2016

Does the bad Canadian dollar make a trip north worthwhile?
posted by Ftsqg at 5:14 PM on March 24, 2016

Some California liquor stores do ship to Washington, fwiw. It's not nearly as satisfying as a road trip and I have no up-to-date info regarding the availability of free or flat-rate shipping, but it can be done. Most Oregonians I know that are closer to CA than WA make regular liquor runs to California.

Additionally, I was literally reviewing Washington state liquor tax laws this morning, and as far as I was able to understand, you are not supposed to be hit with an additional sales tax. There's a liquor sales tax, and a volume-based liquor tax, but the locality sales tax (.095 in Seattle) is not supposed to be applied. This makes me crazy because some retailers report all three taxes on the reciept and some just report the volume and local sales tax and I am sufficiently brain damaged to try to keep track of all that when I do my accounting. I definitely suspect that individual retailers fuck up the calaculation because, fuck me, who wouldn't?
posted by mwhybark at 6:00 PM on March 24, 2016

Do not drive north for better liquor deals. The same bottle that sells for $11 USD in the QFC in WA state will sell for $22 CAD in BC due to the insane liquor taxes. No amount of deals on the FX rate could possibly justify an excursion to BC for alcohol.

Every bottle of wine I see here that is drinkable is $20 CAD or better, this is very similar to the $12 USD price point in wine.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:36 PM on March 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's a word for traveling from state A to state B to buy large volumes of liquor to avoid the taxes imposed in state A. It's called smuggling.

It probably violates the laws of both states and the Federal laws as well.
posted by megatherium at 5:05 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

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