Beat­ing t

Sick of putting your hand in your pocket ev­ery time you get in the car? Here are some op­tions to cut the pain

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story - MARK HINCHLIFFE mark.hinchliffe@cars­

IT SEEMS that each week the fuel price sign goes up faster than a politi­cian’s pay packet.

It’s cost­ing a small for­tune just to get the kids to school, drive to work and do the usual run-around chores, let alone con­sider the lux­ury of a driv­ing hol­i­day. But now is not the time to make rash de­ci­sions, such as ditch­ing the fam­ily car for a hy­brid. Don’t panic. Sit down and ra­tio­nally weigh up all the pos­si­bil­i­ties. There are quite a few.


Ac­cord­ing to the sta­tis­tics, this seems the most pop­u­lar choice.

Sales of fam­ily cars are in more trou­ble than a foot­baller on a night out. Mean­while, sales of smaller cars are sky­rock­et­ing. The in­dus­try di­vides these into cat­e­gories called medium (Camry, Ac­cord, Mazda6), small (Corolla, Mazda3, Golf) and light (Yaris, Swift, Fi­esta).

Even among the cat­e­gories there is a wide range of prices.

You can buy a light car from as lit­tle as $11,990 (plus on-road costs) for the Chinese-made Ch­ery, right up $35,990 for a Citroen DS3.

And you won’t go with­out. Some of the cheap­est lit­tle cars these days come with a swag of safety and crea­ture fea­tures.

PROS: Save on fuel; do the en­vi­ron­ment a favour; eas­ier to park; nip­pier in traf­fic, and lit­tle hatches can be cav­ernous if you fold down the rear seats.

CONS: Cramped on long jour­neys; nois­ier on the high­way; bumpier over pot­holes, and you could feel a lit­tle silly driv­ing a Smurf car.


As in smaller car cat­e­gories, the growth in diesel-pow­ered ve­hi­cles is ex­po­nen­tial.

Since the Fed­eral Cham­ber of Au­to­mo­tive In­dus­tries be­gan col­lat­ing sep­a­rate fig­ures for var­i­ous fuel types in 2005, the num­ber of diesel cars and SUVs more than dou­bled to 125,555 ve­hi­cles bought last year— one in ev­ery five new pas­sen­ger cars or SUVs bought.

The rea­son: mod­ern diesel en­gines are not only up to twice as frugal as a petrol ve­hi­cle, they of­ten have cleaner emis­sions. Mod­ern diesels are also qui­eter and there is no need to wait for a glow light to go out be­fore start­ing them up.

But they are more dif­fi­cult to build, so you pay more.

Some car com­pa­nies charge up to $10,000 more for a diesel vari­ant; most charge about an ex­tra $2000. To reap the eco­nomic ben­e­fits you have to drive big kilo­me­tres each year and keep the ve­hi­cle longer.

The gen­eral rule of thumb to break even is 25,000km a year rather than the typ­i­cal 15,000km and keep­ing the ve­hi­cle at least four years.

PROS: Al­most dou­ble the fuel econ­omy of a petrol equiv­a­lent; more torque means more go off the mark and eas­ier driv­ing around town; bet­ter tow­ing ca­pac­ity; marginally bet­ter re­sale value; lower CO emis­sions, and

2 diesel en­gines of­ten last longer.

CONS: Fewer diesel pumps means queu­ing at the servo; oily bowser pumps leave your hands smelly; they still clat­ter at idle and sound rau­cous at full revs; it takes a long time to reap the eco­nomic ben­e­fits, and ser­vic­ing charges can also be more ex­pen­sive.


Let’s say you have de­cided to trade your fam­ily car or SUV for a city run-around and are hap­pily reap­ing the re­wards at the bowser ev­ery week, or more likely ev­ery sec­ond week.

How­ever, at hol­i­day time you re­gret your de­ci­sion be­cause you have to leave one of the kids be­hind— or the surf­board and the bikes.

If you only need a big car or an SUV for that once-a-year hol­i­day, con­sider hir­ing.

There is a huge choice of hire ve­hi­cles out there.

You can re­ally do it in by hir­ing a lux­ury moto or get a fully dressed SU you can tackle the Simp Desert. You can even hi rugged off-road car­a­van

PROS: Opens up you choice of hol­i­day; you c your­self to a week­end in lux­ury con­vert­ible, orm neigh­bours en­vi­ous roll in a Ger­man lux­ury sed even if it’s just once a ye

CONS: Can be ex­pen most hire com­pa­nies re you to re­turn the ve­hicl place you got it, andmo com­pa­nies tend to be lo in the big­ger cities.


You don’t get much fro gov­ern­ment these days al­most worth it to conve petrol or diesel ve­hi­cle t

the bowser n style orhome, UV so pson ire a n. ur can treat na make the ling up dan, ear. nsive; equire le to the ost hire ocated omthe s but it’s vert your to LPG just to get up to $1750 in hand­outs from the Feds.

But you’d best be quick; the re­bate drops to $1500 from July 1 then falls $250 a year.

Con­ver­sion re­bates and sub­si­dies are for pri­vate ve­hi­cles only. Switch­ing over costs an av­er­age $2800 for pre2006 ve­hi­cles but about $4000 for newer ve­hi­cles be­cause of emis­sions reg­u­la­tions.

If you buy a ve­hi­cle that is fac­tory-fit­ted for LPG be­fore its first reg­is­tra­tion, you get $2000 from Can­berra. But choices of new ve­hi­cles with fac­tory-fit­ted LPG sys­tems are lim­ited. Ford has a new LPG Fal­con com­ing in July and has fac­tory-fit­ted sys­tems for some of its utes.

Holden has an Au­to­gas dual-fuel in­jec­tion sys­tem for Com­modore and a mono-fuel LPG Com­modore due this year. Toy­ota has a di­rect

Don’t panic. Ra­tio­nally weighupthe pos­si­bil­i­ties in­jec­tion LPG sys­tem for its 2.7-litre Hi­Ace vans, and Mit­subishi has an af­ter­mar­ket di­rect-in­jec­tion sys­tem for its Chal­lenger, Ex­press Van, Pa­jero, Tri­ton and its now de­funct 380.

Cheaper fuel, gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies, LPG prices that are fairly static so


CASE STUDY: you don’t have to fill up on a Tues­day morn­ing when servo prices are cheap­est, and lower ve­hi­cle emis­sions.

Lim­ited choice of new dual-fuel ve­hi­cles; only suit­able for large ve­hi­cles; you lose boot space; even though they are safe they can de­velop mi­nor smelly leaks; they add weight to the rear of the car af­fect­ing han­dling, and it can be dif­fi­cult find­ing ser­vos with LPG in the out­back. These have petrol or diesel en­gines and elec­tric mo­tors pow­er­ing the ve­hi­cle. You pay more for the two drive units.

As with diesels, you need to do big kilo­me­tres be­fore the sav­ings at the bowser re­coup the ex­tra pur­chase price.

Most hy­brids switch off



HY­BRID to­tally when you stop and run on elec­tric­ity when you are driv­ing slowly, so they are most eco­nom­i­cal in heavy traf­fic.

The ben­e­fits are neg­li­gi­ble on coun­try roads and high­ways, al­though when both drive units are op­er­at­ing un­der heavy ac­cel­er­a­tion they make a four-cylin­der car feel like a six and a six like a V8.

They’re mainly bought by gov­ern­ments and big busi­ness who want to be seen as green. Taxi com­pa­nies like hy­brids be­cause they do big dis­tances.

Cheaper in traf­fic; good for the en­vi­ron­ment; you can be seen to be green; power on ac­cel­er­a­tion, and al­most silent run­ning on elec­tric only.

Higher pur­chase price, mod­els are lim­ited, but you can choose from a small Prius to a large Porsche



CASE STUDY: Cayenne SUV, al­though some look odd— such as the Prius and Honda’s In­sight.

ELEC­TRIC VE­HI­CLES Again, the cost of EVs pre­vents all but gov­ern­ments and com­pa­nies from buy­ing them.

Most are only avail­able on lease but prices will come crash­ing down in the next few years as more and more EVs be­come avail­able in Aus­tralia.

While tailpipe emis­sions are zero, most of our elec­tric­ity comes from burn­ing coal, so the en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­van­tage is re­duced. Range is also nom­i­nally lim­ited to about 160km but in real life it’s less, es­pe­cially if you have a lead foot.

Very cheap to run; no tailpipe emis­sions;

PROS: al­most silent run­ning, and aero­dy­namic body shapes.

Most EVs end up look­ing like golf carts; ex­pen­sive to buy (if you can find one to buy); silent run­ning is a dan­ger for pedes­tri­ans; lim­ited range; bat­tery dis­posal is an en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sue, and long recharg­ing time.


DRIVE ECO­NOM­I­CALLY Plan trips bet­ter or make fewer trips, jet­ti­son ex­cess weight, and get your car ser­viced more of­ten. Vary driv­ing be­hav­iour — slow down, change to higher gears sooner, and avoid heavy brak­ing and peak-hour traf­fic.

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