Kiwi drivers urged not to switch to lower-grade petrol to save money as fuel prices skyrocket

  • 11/03/2022

As we get accustomed to more pain than ever at the pump, New Zealand drivers are being urged not to give into the temptation to fuel up with lower-grade petrol to save a buck.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, petrol prices have been volatile, with global benchmark Brent crude recording its biggest decline since April 2020 on Wednesday - just a couple of days after hitting a 14-year high at over $139 a barrel. Despite the drop, Brent crude is now hovering around $110 a barrel. 

With petrol prices likely to hit new record highs in the coming weeks, the Motor Industry Association (MIA) is warning New Zealanders not to consider using lower-grade fuel than their car requires.

The MIA says owners of cars that require a higher grade of fuel, such as 95 or 98 octane, risk doing long-term damage to their engine if they use a lower grade of petrol than is recommended.

"Owners of cars that require higher octane petrol may be tempted to use 91 octane to save a few bucks, but it is a false economy," Mark Stockdale, MIA Principal Technical Advisor, says.

"If you use a lower grade than required, you risk damaging the engine which will cost far more than any saving in the price of fuel."

Stockdale says cars that require higher-octane fuel are not designed to run on a lower-grade petrol, and major engine damage could result from regular use. 

The MIA says approximately 20 percent of new petrol cars sold require a minimum of 95 octane.

"The bottom line is, if you use 95 or 98 now, stick with that grade and don't be tempted to switch 91 octane."

Earlier on Friday, Hamilton-based fuel supplier Waitomo Group warned "unprecedented price increases" internationally mean petrol is about to get more expensive. 

"Today, we've been advised by our supplier that prices are increasing, with the biggest single jump in our wholesale price seen in my time," managing director Jimmy Ormsby said. 

"We can't absorb all that rise ourselves - so pump prices are going to have to respond."

Ormsby warned a "jump of this level" will hurt customers and businesses "big time". 

"Get in now, fill up as much as you can. We will supply as much as we can at the lower price until 6pm, but from then on, prices will start climbing, reflecting the unprecedented price increase we've received."