Contrary to popular belief, the cheapest places to fill up your car in Victoria aren’t in metropolitan Melbourne but in regional centres like Ballarat and Benalla.
New research by the RACV has investigated average petrol prices across Melbourne and regional Victoria in 2018-19, pinpointing some of the cheapest and most expensive suburbs and towns.
The research explodes the myth that country petrol prices are always dearer than in the city.
Of the 27 regional towns surveyed, nine were cheaper than Melbourne’s average price of $1.413 cents per litre over the last financial year.
In fact, over the past six months, regional Victoria overall was on average cheaper than metro Melbourne, with an average price of $1.396 compared to $1.405 in the city.
The cheapest places to buy petrol in Victoria in the six months to 1 August were Ballarat, with an average price of $1.317 cents per litre for unleaded petrol, Benalla ($1.328) and Bendigo ($1.344).
In Melbourne, the cheapest petrol could be found in Maidstone ($1.379 cents per litre) just a few kilometres away from the most expensive suburb, Kingsville ($1.465).
“It shows that just by living in a different suburb it can cost you more in fuel,” says RACV’s manager of vehicle engineering Michael Case. “At almost 10 cents a litre, that’s $5 on a tank of fuel for an average family car. It adds up.”
The price difference, he says, can amount to an extra $150 a year, based on a car using 1500 litres a year to travel 15,000 kilometres.
After Maidstone, the next cheapest suburbs for petrol in Melbourne were McKinnon, Doveton and Wantirna, while the most expensive after Kingsville were Ringwood East, Gardenvale and Hampton.
People assume country Victoria is always more expensive and that is not necessarily the case.
Michael says it is not an area’s perceived affluence that dictates petrol prices.
“In one word it’s competition; in two words it’s local competition,” he says. “In highly competitive local areas when one petrol retailer cuts their prices other locals competitors follow.”
He says a gradual rationalisation of petrol stations in some areas has resulted in softer competition and therefore higher prices. At the same time, some petrol retailers rely on sales in their onsite shops to boost profits and are prepared to cut margins on petrol to attract customers into the store. Others with high volumes at the pump could more easily discount petrol prices.
RACV’s senior vehicles engineer Nicholas Platt advises Melbourne motorists to check fuel prices in regional centres before heading out of town, as there could be cheaper petrol along their route.
“People assume country Victoria is always more expensive and that is not necessarily the case,” he says.
But don’t assume petrol is always cheaper in the country, either. The most expensive places to buy unleaded petrol in RACV’s 2018-2019 survey were Ararat ($1.509), Kyabram ($1.489) and Yarrawonga ($1.48).
Maidstone was also the cheapest place to buy premium unleaded petrol ($1.462) while Kingsville was the most expensive ($1.659).
For diesel, Broadmeadows had the cheapest average price ($1.418) while Fawkner was the most expensive ($1.569).