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How to swerve around high petrol prices

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With big companies potentially fleecing Aussie drivers, now is the time to find nifty ways to save on fuel.

In recent weeks, the prices of refined petrol and crude oil both fell, and yet the amount we paid at the bowser did not.

From a high of 106 cents on July 10, refined petrol (supposedly the main influencer of our bowser prices) fell seven per cent to 98 cents on Monday, the Australian Institute of Petroleum reported.

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caltex-graphicThe National Road and Motorists Association (NRMA) watched the fall, which has been happening since mid-July, and noticed very little corresponding drops in bowser prices across the capital cities.

On Tuesday, the average fuel price per litre was $1.46 in Melbourne; $1.42 in Hobart; $1.41 in Adelaide; $1.35 in Canberra; $1.33 in Darwin; and $1.31 in Brisbane.

“We know what the price should be and we know what the price has been,” NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury told The New Daily. “The gap between the two is too high.”

The average price across the nation should soon fall to approximately $1.27. If it does not, the NRMA would be “concerned” that consumers are being exploited, Mr Khoury said.

The refined petrol price accounts for about half the bowser price, with taxes (approximately 36 per cent) and storing, delivering and retailing the petrol (11 per cent) making up the remainder, consumer watchdog the ACCC previously calculated.

An economist at one of the big four banks noticed the same discrepancy.

“Australian fuel prices are holding at a much higher level that what you would expect compared to the level of crude oil prices, even when adjusted for the AUD depreciation,” Westpac senior economist Justin Smirk wrote to clients on July 31.

The NRMA spokesman agreed the recent fall in the Australian dollar was not significant enough to explain the price mismatch.

“Taking into consideration movements in the Australian dollar, we thought prices were a few cents a litre higher than they should’ve been,” Mr Khoury said.

If prices do not fall, the only options to save are to drive less or drive smarter.

Recent research commissioned by Caltex found that more than half (53 per cent) of Australians want to know how to use less fuel, with 96 per cent believing they drive inefficiently.

If that’s true, these tips might help you.

Shop around

In major cities, the price of fuel can fluctuate hugely between retailers, so it is important to do your research, said Mr Khoury.

“In Sydney, the difference between the cheapest service station and the most expensive is consistently 30 cents a litre.”

Sydney-siders can use the NRMA website to find the cheapest local price. Those living elsewhere might have to be more creative.

Pump up your tyres

Fuel efficiency advocates John and Helen Taylor have spent the past 35 years promoting the topic.

Sponsored by Caltex, the couple is currently trying to set a world fuel efficiency record by using 15 per cent less fuel per 100 kilometres over a 38-day journey.

Keeping their tyres at the right pressure was one of their top tips.

“A tyre that is under inflated by just one PSI can reduce fuel efficiency by as much as three per cent,” Mr and Mrs Taylor said in a joint statement.

Don’t put the pedal to the metal

Poor fuel efficiency? Ditch a few passengers!

Gentle acceleration is another top tip, according to Mr and Mrs Taylor.

Taking off gently and driving at lower speeds both save fuel, they said.

“It’s imperative to drive smoothly and avoid unnecessary acceleration and braking,” the couple said in a statement.

Shed some kilos

Another useful fuel saver is carrying less in your car.

“Travel as light as possible as for every extra 45kg you carry, your fuel efficiency can drop by two per cent,” Mr and Mrs Taylor said in a statement.

“It’s super important to keep your boot or back seat clear of unnecessary items that just add weight to your vehicle.

“Clean out your cars and only keep what you need.”

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