Fuel discount offers don't always stack up

They might save you money at the pump, but fuel discount offers can end up costing you more at the register.

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By CHOICE staff

When a discount isn't a discount

With many people hitting the road this holiday period, CHOICE is urging consumers to be wary of discount fuel offers that make you end up spending more than you normally would.

CHOICE has found some petrol chains offering discounts off the pump price if you make an additional purchase in-store. Unfortunately for consumers, the high price of the in-store items means the fuel discount is quickly snuffled up, leaving you spending more than you originally bargained for.

"You might be filling up your car but these discount offers will leave your wallet empty," says Tom Godfrey, head of media at CHOICE. 

"Don't let these tricky 'deals' leave you stranded with overpriced snacks this holiday season."

What's on offer?

BP is one chain that's cashing in on fuel discounts, offering what seems to be a generous 8 cents per litre off the pump price if you purchase an additional two items at the register. The items BP lets you select from are a 750mL bottle of Cool Ridge water, a Gaytime ice cream, a Mars twin pack, and a 600mL bottle of Powerade – all at a price much higher than you can get at your local supermarket.

The cheapest option, buying two Mars twin packs, will set you back an extra $6.40 on top of your fuel costs. But filling up a 50 litre tank at a discount of 8 cents per litre only saves $4, meaning you end up spending an extra $2.40 at the counter.

If you're only filling a 30 litre tank, you'll be an extra $4 out of pocket.

"With this so-called discount you'd need to buy 80 litres of petrol just to break even. Tricky discount schemes like this dupe consumers into thinking they're onto a good deal, but they're actually just getting pumped by the big petrol companies," Godfrey says.

"It's obvious the fuel discount is only of value if you intended on buying the overpriced snacks in the first place. Forking out extra for these items just to save on fuel is not giving you a discount, it's leaving you short-changed."

Looking for a more fuel-efficient vehicle? See our eco-friendly car reviews. Or better yet, buy a bicycle.

It pays to shop around

With the price of fuel rating as a big concern in our latest consumer pulse survey, CHOICE recommends shopping around this holiday season before taking up discount offers from the big chains.

We've noticed large price discrepancies between the big chains and other operators, even when taking into account their discount offers.

In one instance, a Woolworths-Caltex petrol station was offering 8 cents per litre off its regular price of 132.9 cents, while three different nearby petrol stations were charging a regular price of only 106.5 cents per litre.

A saving of 8 cents per litre might be good, but we think a saving of 26 cents per litre is even better.

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