Koo Wee Rup
Exclusive RACV data reveals the winners and losers in the COVID-19 fuel price plummet.
While motorists in metropolitan Melbourne are paying the lowest petrol prices since 2004, some in regional Victoria are forking out as much as 35.4 cents a litre more than those in the city to fill their tanks.
The average price for standard unleaded petrol across metro Melbourne dipped below 90 cents a litre this week, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create a global glut in crude oil that has sent wholesale prices plunging. But while the wholesale price has fallen nearly 40 cents since 13 February, many regional motorists are not seeing the savings at the bowser, with prices in some towns remaining above $1.20 a litre.
RACV has compiled a list of petrol-price winners and losers across Victoria, comparing prices from 13 February when petrol peaked at 164.2 cents a litre in Melbourne, with prices on 3 May.
Across metropolitan Melbourne, petrol has fallen by as much as 74.3 cents a litre, or more than 45 per cent, since mid-February. That’s a saving of almost $45 when filling a 60-litre tank.
But in Kyabram, where prices have dropped by just 16 per cent since February, motorists are paying 125.3 cents a litre, 35.4 cents per litre more than they would in Melbourne. That gives the Goulburn Valley town the dubious distinction of having the priciest petrol in the state.
By contrast, just 40 kilometres away in Echuca, motorists are paying just 91.9 cents a litre, or 36 per cent less than they were in mid-February.
Motorists in Sale in Gippsland might also be feeling hard done by with average fuel prices of 122.5 cents a litre, as might those in Swan Hill, who are paying 121.7 cents. Rounding off the top-10 list of fuel-price losers are Cobram (114.9 cents), Benalla (114.2), Mansfield and Colac (112.9), Euroa (111.6), and Yarrawonga and Ararat (109.9).
Not all regional centres are paying over the odds, though. Prices in Torquay have plunged to 89.9 cents a litre, matching Melbourne prices. Geelong and Portland are also cheaper places to fill up, with fuel selling at 90.9 cents per litre.
RACV senior engineer vehicles, Nicholas Platt, says the wide disparity between petrol-price winners and losers across the state is due to a lack of local competition.
“Regional towns like Kyabram suffer from poor local competition from retailers such as independent garages,” he says. “Independent service stations tend to drive the prices lower and if there’s none in an area, prices tend to be higher.”
He says there are anecdotal stories of community-minded retailers in regional centres dropping prices as a service to the community, which in turn forces other retailers to drop their prices to compete.
Some retailers are also able to discount petrol more heavily because they can make up the revenue through sales in their convenience stores. “The petrol is the hook to drive business through their retail shops and that offsets the discounted fuel and overheads.”
Nicholas says that in Shepparton, which typically mirrors Melbourne prices, petrol remains well over $1 a litre at 108.1 cents, while less than three hours’ drive away in Ballarat, the average price has dropped to 94 cents per litre.
“There are no reasons why some of these larger regional towns should have such high fuel prices,” says Nicholas. “There are some retailers sitting on massive margins. RACV calls on all regional retailers to step up and reduce prices.”
His calls echo those made by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which last month warned retailers to pass on crude oil savings to motorists. Commission chair Rod Sim says while regional retailers have to pay higher costs for transportation and fuel storage, the main disparity between city and regional prices is due to fewer outlets and therefore reduced competition.
To find your cheapest local fuel price, check RACV's Fuel Price Monitor. The interactive map will help you keep track of local petrol, diesel and other fuel prices across Melbourne and the rest of Victoria.