Beat the fuel rollercoaster

REMEMBER the days when petrol was 62 cents a litre and we thought we were paying a lot?

With the price of petrol more than doubling in the past decade, everybody could do with some tips on how to keep running costs down.

And thankfully, it doesn't need to involve buying some fancy new gadget or spending hours finding the servo with the cheapest price at the bowser.

RACQ vehicle technologies manager Steve Spalding and Sunshine Coast mechanic Brett Suell, of BLT mobile mechanics, both suggest common sense can go a long way in ensuring the fuel in your tank goes a long way, too.

Simple things such as ensuring the tyre pressure is correct every fortnight, travelling according to the rules of the road and servicing your car regularly could save hundreds on the annual fuel bill.

“It's the same-old same-old,” Mr Suell said.

“Make sure your tyres are inflated, and driving nicely helps.”

Mr Spalding said many products on the market advertised they could keep fuel costs down, but “we've never seen any evidence they work”.

“Our advice is to always treat them with caution,” he said.

“We suggest people approach the supplier and ask if it has been tested to Australian Standards and, if so, to show the test results.

“If they are not comfortable with the claims, then don't go ahead.

“You could spend $300 to $400, and it is unlikely you will recover it.”

Fuel coupons could have a benefit, but this had to be measured against the cost of the time and travel needed to use them, he said.

“As with any coupon, make sure you don't change your buying habits for them to have a benefit,” Mr Spalding said.

“Stick to your local area.

“It doesn't take long to run up travelling costs by looking for servos.”

The best way to save money at the bowser was to “shop at the low point in the fuel cycle”, he said.

“You need to plan your filling up around the low-point in the weekly cycle (usually Tuesday or Wednesday) and you can save up to 10 cents a litre,” Mr Spalding said.

“If you put a shop-a-docket with this, there is potentially a 14 cents difference.”

Many people have switched to LPG, which sells at a much lower price per litre than ordinarily fuel, but Mr Spalding said motorists had to build the installation costs of LPG into the equation.

“Don't just buy on price,” he said.

“There have been systems in years gone by which were cheap, but the car never ran well on them.

“LPG is a good system if you do high kilometres annually, as you can work off the cost of installation in a couple of years.”

If you're in the market for a car, buying a diesel model could save you thousands in the long term.

“You pay slightly more for diesel, but you get more money back on resale,” Mr Spalding said.

“You also pay more for services, but you pay significantly less in fuel costs.

“Your fuel use can be more than 25% lower (with diesel) and your emissions are up to 15% lower.

“The driveability of diesel is aligned to day-to-day traffic.”

Keeping up with your vehicle's log book service requirements may seem like a big upfront cost, but Mr Spalding said it was worth it.

“People see servicing as a cost item and delay it,” he said.

“But it saves money. Manufacturers address issues in the service cycle. If you don't pick these things up, they can move from a service item to a repair item which means a higher cost.

“Having the vehicle serviced according to the log book is also better for resale.”

Is it worthwhile spending time researching websites such as Fuel Watch to see who is offering the best deals? Apparently not.

“Often we're only talking about one of two cents difference and with most people only filling up 20 or 30 litres, you're looking at about 50 cents saving,” Mr Spalding said.

“You might be persuaded to go several kilometres up the road for what is less than 50 cents and that isn't logical.”

The way you drive can, however, make a big difference.

“Economic driving is much aligned with safe driving,” Mr Spalding said.

Another tip: don't use your boot as an extra storage space.

“Most people use their boot for temporary or permanent storage, but weight can make a big difference,” Mr Spalding said.

“There is a direct relationship between weight and fuel consumption.”

RACQ'S TOP 10 FUEL-SAVING TIPS

  • Drive smoothly.
  • Watch your speed as higher speeds consume more fuel.
  • Avoid prolonged engine idling.
  • Avoid peak hour and other heavy traffic.
  • Use the air-conditioner sparingly.
  • Have your car serviced regularly as cars which run more efficiently burn less fuel.
  • Keep tyres correctly inflated. Tyres which are low on air pressure have greater rolling resistance and that means your car's engine works harder, using more fuel.
  • Don't carry unnecessary weight around in the car as this increases fuel use.
  • Consider converting your car to LPG or buying a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle.
  • Be sceptical about the claims made about add-on petrol-saving devices available.


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