Reduce petrol price pain with these fuel-efficient driving hacks

Petrol price pump revealing petrol prices.

Steve Colquhoun

Posted September 16, 2019

Spend less time and money at the bowser with these top tips for fuel-efficient driving. 

With recent drone strikes on Saudi Arabian oil facilities reportedly disrupting about half the kingdom’s oil supply – or about five per cent of the global oil supply – there are fears that fuel prices in coming weeks could spike by 10 cents a litre or as much as 20 cents a litre.  

In practical terms, an increase from $1.20 to $1.60 such as Melbourne experienced in October 2018 – when the price for 91 RON, or standard unleaded petrol, spiked to $1.67 per litre – would mean the owner of a mid-size car or SUV with a 60-litre tank could be shelling out as much as an extra $24 per fill. If you travel 500 to 600 kilometres weekly, you might need to find an additional $1250 a year. 

But there are some significant, sustainable measures you can take to rein in your fuel bill. The type of car you drive, the time of day you commute, your driving style, and when and where you fuel up all may have a significant effect.  

Top tips for fuel-efficient driving

Buy the best fuel

Drivers intent on saving money might be tempted to choose the cheapest fuel at the pump, but Helen cautions this can be a false economy. “Where available, we purchase quality fuels,” she says. “Combined with our driving tips this gives maximum performance, and helps keep all the moving parts clean of gunk, thereby reducing maintenance costs.” 

Get your car serviced regularly

According to Helen perhaps the most crucial step is one that many drivers overlook. “The costliest mistake, from experience, is not servicing your car as per the manufacturer’s schedule,” Helen says. “This is based on drivers not being able to afford to pay for their service*, yet sadly this non-service ends up costing you a lot more in the long run.”

Pay attention to fuel cycles

A smart way to save on fuel costs is to pay close attention to the ‘fuel cycle’ – a common trend in cities whereby fuel prices gently fall over a period of weeks, then sharply increase. 

“There’s no bell that rings at the bottom of the cycle to tell you it’s time to buy fuel – you have to watch the cycle,” says RACV’s manager of vehicle engineering, Michael Case. “When you see the two lines on the graph getting close to one another, that’s a sign that the price could be going to jump imminently.” 

Use RACV's fuel price monitor to find the cheapest fuel near you

Michael also recommends keeping an eye on RACV’s fuel-price page, which has a graph showing average retail and wholesale fuel prices for the past 30 days.  

He also urges motorists to use one of various apps for an overview of real-time pricing in their own area, to help choose the retailer with the lowest prices.

“If you can save 20 cents, that’s $10 to $12 per fill,” says Michael. Do that regularly and you will be hundreds of dollars better off in a year.”


Six easy tips to save petrol

  1. Underinflated tyres increase fuel consumption so check tyre pressure regularly.
  2. Obey service intervals – a well-tuned engine with the correct oil at recommended levels can improve fuel economy.
  3. Avoid excess weight – everything you carry in your boot or back seat affects fuel use.
  4. Remove the roof rack if you’re not using it. It creates drag, making the engine work harder.
  5. Use air-conditioning sparingly – it puts extra load on the engine. Use the fan whenever possible.
  6. Drive smoothly – aggressive drivers use as much as one-third more fuel. Avoid hard accelerating or braking and keep your steering smooth.