Five ways to cut petrol costs down

Experts from AA and Consumer NZ share their top tips to reduce fuel costs.
Experts from AA and Consumer NZ share their top tips to reduce fuel costs. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Petrol prices are on the way up, but experts say there are ways to save money.

In a report on Monday, Kiwibank forecasts annual inflation to hit 6.2 percent - and bank economists say transport costs are set to be one of the main drivers.

According to fuel price comparison app Gaspy, the price of 91 octane in central Auckland on Monday ranges from $2.47 to $2.76 per litre.

AA principal policy adviser Terry Collins told Newshub this week's "landed price" of petrol (before margins and taxes were added), was the most expensive in a year.

If tensions between Russia, one of the world's largest oil producers and Ukraine, a major transit hub, cross the border, it's likely that prices would jump regularly.

"I would expect further increases in the foreseeable future," Collins said.

Consumer NZ head of communications Gemma Rasmussen said as the price-drivers are many and aren't always transparent, petrol prices are often a source of frustration.

"It's often not negotiable… people feel like they just have to pay the price they're given," Rasmussen said.

To help motorists budget for this rising and often unavoidable cost, Newshub asked Collins and Rasmussen for their top five tips to cut petrol costs down.

1. Plan where to fuel up for longer trips

According to prices shown on Gaspy last Friday, Collins said diesel prices in Auckland varied by as much as 45c per litre, ($1.62 at Gull Albany, $2.07 at Mobil St Lukes).

Prices tend to be lowest in places where a low-cost operator, like Gull, Allied, Challenge or Waitomo are located, Collins said.

As savings can be nominal, motorists need to take into account the amount of extra time (and petrol) it takes in return for a cheaper price. For longer trips, it may be worth planning a place to stop, take a break and fuel up.

"Think about stopping for half a tank of cheap fuel during your trip, instead of getting to your destination to fill up at a higher price," Collins suggested.

2. Avoid rush hour traffic (where possible)

As constant acceleration and braking consumes more fuel, choosing to work outside of the typical 9-to-5, and/or working from home on certain days, can also save money.

Another option is to look at carpooling options, along with public transport (e.g. a bus or train).

3. Avoid or reduce short trips

As short trips are less fuel-efficient, motorists could consider walking, or using public transport instead.

"Cars can use up to 20 percent more fuel when the engine is cold. Short trips mean the engine doesn't tend to heat up as much in time," Rasmussen said.

4. Turn off air conditioning (and heating), check tyre pressure

Air conditioning (and excessive heating), also burns more fuel.

"If you go without and have the windows down, that might mean that it's a little more affordable," Rasmussen said.

Making sure the tyres are inflated to the correct pressure, and removing any heavy objects, will also help save money.

"Driving smooth and steady rather than doing heavy accelerating and braking, and not driving around with unnecessary stuff in your car that adds weight can make a 10 percent (plus) difference to how much fuel you burn," Collins said.

5. Using and 'stacking' discounts (e.g. AA Smarfuel)

Motorists who fill up regularly at the same station (e.g. close to home or work), may find joining their loyalty programme saves them a few cents per litre.

By doing a series of small top-ups at places like Z stations, AA Smartfuel cardholders may be able to "stack discounts", Rasmussen said.

"Consumers can strategically top up a minimum amount a few times, stacking their discount, then using a larger discount on a full tank fuel up later," Rasmussen said.

"You can top up a minimum (small) amount a few times, then "stack" your discount, so there's a larger discount on a full tank of fuel later on."

Following a Commerce Commission market study on the factors affecting competition in the supply of petrol and diesel, from February, there will be slightly tighter regulation on fuel prices.

'Terminal gate pricing' - essentially a spot price from which wholesale suppliers will sell fuel to wholesale customers - will act as a benchmark for supplier agreements, Rasmussen said.

"Hopefully that will trickle down to consumers… but unfortunately, fuel is still going to be expensive for a lot of people."