Six ways to beat soaring fuel prices


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Fuel prices have hit fresh highs in Australia, adding pain to the hip pocket every time you fill up.

Blame it on the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which controls oil production globally. Demand plummeted during the pandemic, which was hardly surprising given the constraints on movement. That prompted a reduction in supply.

Now demand is surging as economies open up, but oil producers haven't kept up, so prices have risen.

petrol prices

What stings more is that a little over a year ago it was possible to buy petrol for less than $1 a litre. Now it's almost double that.

In September the ACCC released a report stating petrol prices in 2020-21 were at their lowest levels in 22 years. A month later the media has regularly reported record price highs.

While you can't control the global price of petrol, you can reduce how much it will hurt when you roll up to the bowser.

Here are six ways to save money on fuel.

1. Check your car

Stale fuel can have modern cars running like a lawnmower. So if you haven't hit the road for a while consider topping up with a fresh batch.

Also, make sure your car is up to date on servicing so it's running at its peak.

2. Pump up your tyres

Under-inflated tyres have more rolling resistance, so the engine has to work harder to get the car moving. So make sure you're tyres are up to at least the minimum recommended for your car (check the placard, which is usually inside one of the door jambs or inside the fuel filler flap).

While you're at it get a wheel alignment. Having wheels pointing in every direction is no good for tyre wear but it's even worse for fuel economy.

3. Switch off the AC

Air-conditioning places a constant drain on the engine so consider turning it off or opening a window when you don't need it. You should save between 200ml and 400ml of fuel per hour, which in city traffic can easily add 10% to your fuel use.

Don't get too prudent with eliminating AC, though, because having your windows open at freeway speeds is also bad for fuel use due to added aerodynamic drag.

4. Slow down

Aerodynamic drag doesn't have much influence on a car around town, but it does on a freeway. Double your speed from 50 to 100km/h and you'll have four times the aero drag.

So on a 110km/h freeway even backing off to 100km/h will make a difference to fuel use.

5. Look ahead

Looking ahead and anticipating traffic flow is arguably the best way you'll save fuel. Unless you're driving a hybrid or electric car (which have regenerative brakes to recapture energy) you'll be creating heat through friction every time you touch the brakes.

The energy you used to accelerate is now dissipating as heat and you'll have to burn more fuel to get things going when the lights go green. By lifting off the throttle that little earlier and letting the car coast rather than braking you'll save plenty of fuel.

6. Check the prices

Fuel prices can change during the day and from servo to servo. So have a fuel price app such as Motormouth on your phone so that you can plan ahead and pick up those deals.

Also consider independent service stations, which may not have the reward points but often have cheaper petrol. It also pays to understand the fuel price cycles, which vary from state to state. The ACCC keeps track of them.

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Toby Hagon is one of Australia's most respected motoring writers. A regular contributor to News Corp, Wheels magazine, Qantas magazine and 4x4 Australia, he also features as a motoring expert on ABC Radio and is editor of
David Coates
November 5, 2021 5.27am

Buy an electric car.

David Pickford
November 5, 2021 9.03am

Oh great, as if we don't have enough morons on our freeways sitting in right-hand lanes and driving below the speed limit and holding up others without you encouraging this dangerous and selfish behaviour. If you want to save fuel buy a smaller car, travel at a time where less people are on the road or take a bus.