Petrol is getting too expensive -- and prices are only going to get worse. Instead of reverting to the horse-and-cart, here are a handful of simple bowser strategies that will help to keep petrol prices more manageable.
Petrol despair picture from Shutterstock
One of the big changes of the 2014 Federal Budget is that fuel excise rates are going to be reindexed every six months, starting from 1 August. It’s estimated that this will result in an increase of 1 cent/litre every year (independent of other pricing changes). In other words, fuel is going to cost more. Boo.
Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate the damage without resorting to redirecting petrol pipelines or going on a Mad Max-style vehicular rampage. Here are a few tips.
Strike before the tank's empty
Most drivers tend to fill up their car just before they run out of petrol: it's one of those time-consuming things that we only want to do when it's absolutely necessary. The downside of this is that you're essentially forced to pay whatever the asking price is on that day. Instead, try to get into the habit of intermittently topping up when prices are cheap -- that way, you'll never be have to pay on expensive days.
Supermarket discount vouchers are your friends
While there are fears that shopper docket discounts may damage petrol prices in the long term, it’s hard to look past 40 cents off per litre. Indeed, the retail petrol market has been entirely transformed over the last decade by the entry of supermarket chains who offer discounts to customers who spend money in their stores.
This typically involves paying $100 or so, which isn't a big stretch if you get your weekly groceries in one go. If you're not taking advantage of shopper docket discounts, we advise you get in on the action before they disappear.
Sign up for a multicard
Certain credit card providers offer multicards that come with inbuilt petrol price discounts. You can even sign up to some of them for free; such as the Woolworths Everyday Rewards card. This currently offers a standard fuel offer of four cents off per litre.
Stick to the cheapest days – and do your research!
According to popular belief, Tuesdays and Sundays are the cheapest days to buy petrol, while Thursdays and Fridays are best avoided. However, this is not always the case and prices can fluctuate wildly from week-to-week. It therefore pays to do some actual research.
As part of its fuel price monitoring activities, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission runs a weekly update on which day of the week fuel is cheapest in major capital cities. As you can see, the cheapest day to buy petrol this month was actually Wednesday in most states and territories.
Use ethanol-based petrols
If your car was manufactured in the 1990s or later, there's a pretty good chance that it will be E5 and E10 suitable. These are ethanol blend petrols that are cheaper than the regular unleaded variety. Naturally, you should check with the manufacturer if you're unsure about your car's suitability. Click here for a list of compatible vehicles from the Federal Chamber Of Automotive Industries.
Download a petrol-tracking app
A few years ago, the only way to find the best petrol price was to drive around looking at signs. These days, you can get your smartphone to do the hunting for you (just not while actively driving, natch). Google’s Petrol Price Tracker does exactly what it says on the tin: it lets you select your preferred petrol type and brand, and offers twice-daily price updates by postcode.
Another great app is MotorMouth, which is available for iOS and Android devices. In addition to the app, you can also sign up to receive free fuel price email alerts.
Go easy on the accelerator
This is more of a petrol-conservation tip, but it still results in paying less at the bowser. In short, don't push the pedal to the metal unless it's absolutely necessary. This consumes more petrol for little or no reason. The next time you're stopped at a set of red lights, try slowly easing down on the accelerator when the lights turn green; you can save up to 20 per cent of your fuel this way.
The same principle applies to air conditioning (i.e. -- don't crank it), keeping your tyres at the right pressure, proper wheel alignment, regularly changing your air filter and keeping overall speeds down to reduce drag.
Keep your car in the garage!
Many of us have become far too dependent on our motor vehicles due to habit and/or convenience. But it doesn't have to be this way. If you're feeling the pinch at the bowser, try using your legs more. No really. That 10-minute trip down the road for some milk really doesn't require a car trip (if you have a bicycle, all the better). In addition to saving money on petrol, you'll also be healthier and more environmentally friendly. Win, win!
If any readers have petrol tips of their own to share, fire away in the comments section below!