There are many forces at play when it comes to the rise and fall of fuel prices – from the increasing price of crude oil and fluctuating exchange rates, to devastating wars or just healthy company competition.
While you can't have much control over these factors as a lone consumer, there are some steps you can take to help drive down your personal fuel costs.
Fuel price comparison apps let you find the cheapest fuel based on your location and other search criteria.
Government apps and websites, including NSW FuelCheck, MyFuel NT, FuelCheckTAS and FuelWatch (WA), publish prices they receive directly from fuel retailers under mandatory reporting laws.
NSW FuelCheck, MyFuel NT and FuelCheck TAS are updated as prices change at the pump, while WA retailers report each day's prices the previous day and those prices remain set within that period.
Queensland and South Australia don't have their own fuel pricing apps or websites. Instead, they compile real-time fuel price databases via mandatory reporting and provide this information to a selection of third-party developers.
Currently, The ACT and Victorian governments don't have fuel price checking apps or websites and do not maintain dedicated fuel price databases either, although some third-party businesses (such as the RACV) and developers do provide this service in these areas.
Third-party apps, such as MotorMouth, GasBuddy, myNRMA, the RACQ Fair Fuel, Fuel Map Australia, Petrol Spy Australia and ServoTrack generally rely on a mix of data sources from users, retailers and private companies. Some list individual retailers or offer an average across a city or region. The frequency with which they're updated can vary, so it's worth checking a few to see what works for you.
Many apps are easy to use and include useful options like trip planning, favourites, price tracking, trends, and notifications. We looked at a number of them in our best apps for finding cheap fuel test.
There are a number of free apps available for Android and iOS devices.
The best way to use a fuel price app is to plot your journey and look for the cheapest fuel on your route.; sSome apps will do this for you.
But if you have to go out of your way, is it worth the extra fuel you'll use in the pursuit of cheaper fuel? Well, it's all in the maths.
There's no singular consistent day that petrol prices are cheaper. In the major cities, the best day to buy fuel is at a low point in a price cycle – which is a movement in the retail price from a low point to a high point to a subsequent low point.
Alternatively, a number of apps in our fuel apps test also provide this information. However, apps in states or territories that rely on user-submitted data will be less accurate than those with access to government databases.
The way you drive and the condition of your car have an impact on the amount of fuel you use. Here are a few tips to help you save while you drive:
- Avoid short trips: cars can use up to 20% more fuel when the engine is cold.
- Avoid over-revving if you're driving a manual. In an automatic, ease back slightly on the accelerator once the car gathers momentum. Avoid stop/start driving if you can.
- Don't speed: fuel consumption increases significantly over around 90km/h. At 110km/h your car can use up to 25% more fuel than it would at 90km/h.
- Unless your car is programmed to do so, it's not safe to turn off your engine at every red light. However, if you're parked, even for a short period, turning it off will save more fuel than you'll lose restarting the engine.
- Air conditioning can increase fuel use by up to 10%, but at speeds of more than 80km/h an open window will cost you more in aerodynamic drag.
- Service your vehicle regularly. Check your tyre pressure at least once a month.
- Use the recommended fuel type. If you use regular unleaded in a car designed for premium, expect slightly lower performance and fractionally higher consumption. Using premium unleaded in a car designed for regular may provide better fuel consumption in some newer vehicles, but it's unlikely to offset the extra cost of the fuel.