You might have noticed last week’s trip to the petrol bowser cost more than usual.
National petrol prices shot up by a record-breaking 14.4 cents a litre between January 17 and 24, according to the Australian Institute of Petroleum (AIP).
Motorists paid an average of 134 cents a litre and even more in capital cities, where prices skyrocketed 16.5 per cent to 138.8 cents a litre.
The national rise (12.4 per cent) was the largest in 17 years of record keeping at the AIP, the result of a steady recovery in global oil prices coinciding with a peak in local pricing cycles.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is now warning motorists in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to avoid or delay filling up their tanks as prices are likely to soon fall.
So, how long should you hold off?
Commonwealth Bank chief economist Craig James said pump prices are easing quickly in Adelaide but coming down slowly in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Families who can delay their next big refuel for two to three weeks will probably pay 25 to 30 cents less per litre, Mr James said in a research note on Monday.
“Motorists should top up rather than fill up, with prices just off cyclical highs,” he said.
The record spike is bad news for two reasons.
First, motorists have been copping increasing bowser prices for months in a return to pre-COVID levels.
Second, it weighs on already-constrained household budgets, making it harder for Australians to support local businesses.
“[It] has potential to dampen consumer sentiment and spending at a time when people need to be spending to boost economic activity,” Mr James said.
But savvy motorists can still save by shopping around.
The ACCC has repeatedly found those who pay close attention to discounting cycles or use independent retailers will be rewarded.
In 2018, the consumer watchdog said motorists who fill up a 50-litre tank once a week could save between $150 and $520 a year by buying at the bottom of pricing cycles, while a 2019 report found motorists could save $350 a year by avoiding big-name brands.
How prices are tracking across the country
Prices in Sydney peaked at 145.6 cents a litre last Friday and have been falling slowly since then, declining to 144.7 cents per litre on Monday.
That’s close to the city’s 60-day high, according to comparison website MotorMouth.
The ACCC has advised Sydney motorists to avoid filling up where possible as prices are expected to fall over the next two weeks.
Petrol prices in Melbourne peaked at 152 cents a litre last Saturday and have stayed close to that price over the past few days.
The average price in the city on Monday was 151.1 cents per litre, which was in line with the 60-day high, according to MotorMouth.
The ACCC is advising Melbourne motorists to avoid filling up where possible, as prices will fall slowly over the next two weeks.
Prices peaked at 150.5 cents a litre in Brisbane last Saturday and have remained close to that price since.
At 150.1 cents a litre on Monday, the average price is still hovering close to the 60-day high, according to MotorMouth.
The ACCC says motorists in Brisbane should avoid buying petrol if they can, with prices expected to fall over the next two weeks.
Petrol prices peaked at 144.7 cents a litre in Adelaide last Tuesday and have declined quickly over the past week to 125 cents a litre on Monday.
That’s around the midway point of the discounting cycle over the past 60 days, according to MotorMouth.
The ACCC says motorists in Adelaide should consider delaying petrol purchases because prices should fall further over the next two weeks.
In other capital cities, prices rose less than 2 per cent, on a week-to-week basis, and the ACCC has not advised consumers to delay or avoid purchases beyond Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.