The average Australian drives almost 13,000 km per year. So if you're like two-thirds of the population who rely on their car to get to work every day, here are some easy tips to help you spend less at the pump.
1. Work the fuel price cycle
It can be hard keeping up with the fluctuations in fuel prices. Petrol costs go up and down frequently according to changes in international price, levels of competition and pricing decisions made by retailers or wholesalers, as well as the value of the Australian dollar.
This is further complicated by the petrol price cycles we see in major cities — where the price goes up sharply, before gradually going down. Depending where you live, the length of the cycles varies. For example, in Perth the cycle is around seven days from cheapest day to cheapest day. Meanwhile, in the other state capitals it’s usually around 10 to 14 days.
The trick is to pay attention to the petrol price cycles in your area, so you can fill up the tank while the price is low. And now, keeping track of petrol prices is easier than ever, with new services and apps to help you make better fuel-buying decisions. For example, the Motormouth website can tell you which days are best to fill up and where you can find the cheapest petrol in your area.
2. Choose the right fuel
When you’re buying a new car, it’s a great opportunity to consider what type of fuel will be cheapest to run. And for more and more Australians the answer seems to be diesel. In fact, the number of passenger vehicles registered with diesel fuel jumped by over 100% between 2009 and 2014.
So are diesel engines really more economical than petrol? The answer is generally yes. Studies have found that a diesel engine is 20 to 30 per cent more fuel-efficient than its petrol equivalent. However, strong growth in demand has driven up the price per litre, so diesel will also typically cost you more at the pump than regular petrol.
That means that if you're weighing up whether to choose a diesel or petrol powered vehicle as your next car, you'll need to consider how much time you spend on the road and if paying more for diesel will work out to be more cost-effective in the long run.
3. Drive more efficiently
While you can’t always control how far you have to drive, you can reduce your petrol use by changing how you drive. Here are five driving tips that can increase your fuel-efficiency.
Slow down. The faster you go, the more fuel you burn. And instead of hitting the brakes and accelerator, maintaining a constant speed can help drastically reduce the amount of petrol you use.
Check your tyres. Make sure your tyres are properly inflated to prevent your engine from releasing extra fuel. Getting your car serviced regularly will also help keep it fuel-efficient.
Plan your trip. Before you set out, find out where the traffic is and go around it, to reduce how much time you spend on the road. And try to bundle all your errands into a single journey, rather than making a lot of short trips.
Remove weight. Driving with extra weight in your car increases fuel consumption, so clear out your boot and take off your roof rack when you're not using it.
Don't idle. If you do get stuck in traffic, switch your engine off when it's safe to do so, or make use of any start/stop technologies your vehicle may have. Keeping your engine idling for just ten minutes (in neutral) can waste around 130 mls of fuel.
 McCrindle Research, Getting to work, 2014.
 Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Motor Vehicle Census, Australia, 31 Jan 2014
 Drive, Diesel v petrol: which is the best? 2010.
 Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Fuel facts: diesel, 2012
 Australian Automobile Association, Eco driving.
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