How to save money on fuel


From the latest apps to simple driving tricks, what you can do to save money on petrol.

How to drive your fuel bill down


Whether you're planning a road trip this summer, or just trying to squeeze the most out of your holiday budget, there are a few easy things you can do to save some money at the bowser.

If it's felt like the cost of fuel has been burning a bigger-than-usual hole in your pocket this past year, you'd be right.

In August 2018, petrol prices hit a four-year high in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth, according to the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

While there's not a lot you can do about the increasing price of crude oil and a low exchange rate, there are a number of ways you can drive down your fuel bill.

6 ways to save on petrol

The way you drive and the condition of your car has an impact on how much fuel you use.

AIM TO MAINTAIN

Service your vehicle regularly. Check your tyre pressure at least once a month.

NOT TOO SHORT

Cars can use up to 20% more fuel when the engine is cold so avoid short trips.

DON'T BE A REV HEAD

Avoid over-revving if you’re driving a manual. In an automatic, ease back slightly on the accelerator once the car gathers momentum.

STAY COOL

Air conditioning can increase fuel use by up to 10%, however at speeds of more than 80 km/h, an open window will cost you more in aerodynamic drag.

DON'T SPEED

Fuel consumption increases significantly over around 90km/h. At 110 km/h your car uses up to 25 per cent more fuel than it would at 90 km/h.

OFF AND ON

Don't turn your engine off at red lights (unless your car is programmed to do so). However, if you’re parked, even for a short period, switching off will save more fuel than you’ll lose restarting.

Fuel-price comparison apps

Fuel-price comparison apps let you find the cheapest fuel based on your location and other search criteria.

Government apps, including NSW FuelCheck, MyFuel NT, and FuelWatch (Western Australia), publish prices they receive directly from fuel retailers under mandatory reporting laws. FuelCheck and MyFuel are updated as prices change at the pump, while WA retailers report each day's prices the previous day. They are generally comprehensive and include the most up-to-date prices.

Third-party apps, such as MotorMouth, GasBuddy, the NRMA, the RACV, the RAA, 7-Eleven and Fuel Map, generally rely on a mix of data sources including users, retailers and private companies. Some list individual retailers or offer an average across a city or region, and the frequency with which they're updated varies, so it's worth checking a few to see what works for you.

Many apps include useful options like trip planning, favourites, price tracking, trends, and notifications, and they're all free and easy to use.

Is it worth driving further for cheaper fuel?

The best way to use a fuel price app is to plot your journey and look for the cheapest fuel on your route; some 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. 

  • Divide the trip distance (5km) by 100.
  • Multiply the result by the fuel consumption of your car (e.g. 7.5 litres/100km).
  • Multiply this figure by the cost of fuel per litre (e.g. $1.50).

In this case, a five kilometre trip would cost you approximately 56 cents (not taking into account factors including traffic or your time). If you're saving five cents a litre on fuel and filling a 50-litre tank, your savings would be $2.50 minus 56 cents, which, depending on how often you fill up, can add up over a year.

To find out your car's fuel consumption, check your vehicle manual, manufacturer's website, or visit the Green Vehicle Guide. If your car pre-dates 2004, visit the Fuel Consumption Guide Database.

What's the cheapest day to buy fuel?

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.

Price cycles don't necessarily operate on a weekly basis. In 2017, cycle durations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide ranged from 11 to 61 days, so the cheapest days to buy fuel often change each week.

If Sydney motorists had avoided buying E10 on the six days around the cycle peaks in the six months to August this year, they would have saved on average around 2.7 cents per litre, according to the ACCC.

You can find daily updates on petrol price cycles, including advice on whether it's a good day to buy fuel in your capital city, on the ACCC website.

We track-test tyres from Goodyear, Bridgestone, Michelin and many more brands. See the results in our car tyre reviews.

Fuel-efficient driving

The way you drive and the condition of your car also has an impact on the amount of fuel you use. Here are a few tips to help.

  • 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.

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