Petrol price hike: best ways to save money & fuel
The recent petrol price hike has dealt another blow to consumers. With household pockets running on empty, we speak to experts about how to keep your fuel costs low
IT FEELS like we’re going head-tohead with a heavyweight fighter, driven into a corner of the ring by a big mean bully as he rains blows down on our already battered heads. And it seems there’s no relief in sight. South Africans are reeling after yet another petrol price hike – and we may well be paying over R18 a litre by the end of the year, some experts predict.
All of which could lead to a pretty miserable festive season. The price of fuel significantly affects the cost of living, so our wallets are going to feel lighter and our spirits heavier as we stagger punchdrunk towards December.
We’ve never paid this much for petrol. Motorists inland are now forking out R17,08 a litre for 95-octane unleaded petrol – a whole rand more than it cost at the beginning of September. Coastal consumers aren’t much better off either at R16,49 a litre. The price of diesel rose even more – by as much as R1,24 a litre.
These hikes, the biggest of the past three-and-a-half years, could be “catastrophic” for consumers, says Layton Beard, spokesperson of the Automobile Association (AA).
Paul Makube, senior agricultural economist at FNB Agri Business, agrees. “This is certainly expected to place further strain on the nation. Small businesses and poorer households will bear the brunt as their transport costs account for a large portion of their expenditure.”
The increase is largely due to the combination of rising crude oil prices internationally and a weaker rand, Makube adds.
The higher oil price is a double blow to producers. Almost 80% of grain is transported by road and there are indirect consequences too – for instance, more expensive fuel by-products used in crop farming, such as fertilisers.
“These costs will gradually be passed on to the consumer,” Makube says. In other words, the cost of food will rise. “Consumers are currently between a rock and a hard place in terms of their finances, and unfortunately, a lot of the challenges are beyond any individual’s control,” says Dr Christoph Nieuwoudt, head of FNB Consumer.
“However, it’s important for every person to control what they can.”
This includes how you use your car and your approach to driving. We went in search of tips on how you can use fuel more efficiently and save a few of your hard-earned coins.
‘These costs will gradually be passed onto the consumer’
MAKE YOUR CAR MORE EFFICIENT
Service your car regularly, the AA’s Beard says. Well-serviced cars can use more than 10% less fuel than cars that
aren’t properly maintained.
Make sure your car’s tyres are in a good condition and your wheel alignment is correct. Regularly check your tyre pressure too. Dewald Ranft, chairperson of SA’s Motor Industry Workshop Association, says tyre pressure that’s too low can reduce fuel efficiency by 3%.
Tyre pressure should be checked at least once a month and wheel alignment annually – or sooner if you’ve hit a pothole or curb, Arrive Alive’s Advocate Johan Jonck says.
According to tyre manufacturers, one in every five tanks of petrol your car uses results from road surface friction. So it would probably be in your best financial interest to talk to your tyre supplier about so- called “low rolling resistance tyres”. This involves tyre designs and materials that reduce resistance.
Use the correct type of spark plugs and accurate spark settings.
Get rid of any roof or boot racks unless it’s essential. Any additional wind resistance and weight pushes up fuel consumption. Remove any nonessential items that make your car heavier.
Anything that puts more strain on your car battery – such as the air-conditioner – usually also uses fuel. And if your battery is run down, it can affect your car’s alternator because it will constantly try to recharge, which makes the engine work harder.
AT THE FUEL PUMP
Always use the specified engine oil (check your owner’s manual). A low viscosity oil can improve fuel efficiency, Ranft reckons. By using an oil thicker than recommended you could be pushing up your fuel consumption. And old “sludged-up” oil can reduce fuel efficiency by several percentage points, he says.
Don’t let the petrol attendant rock your car to get a few more drops of petrol in. Ask for filling to stop when the pump automatically shuts off – in other words, at the first click. An overfull tank causes the fuel to escape in vapour form. If you can help it, don’t park in the sun or on a hill – this will help to reduce the evaporation rate. Make sure your fuel cap is properly shut so petrol doesn’t evaporate.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Drive evenly, with your foot lightly on the accelerator, and don’t brake unnecessarily sharply, Beard says. The faster you accelerate, the more petrol you use. Pull away slowly and gradually at traffic lights and stop streets. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in America estimates that by maintaining a speed of 100km/ h instead of 120km/ h your fuel consumption can drop by up to 20%. Change to a higher gear as soon as the car’s engine allows you to do this. You use more fuel travelling in a lower gear. You could also skip gears, for example by changing from first to third gear. Momentum is your ally. Keep your eye on the traffic a few hundred metres ahead of you and drive sensibly so that you keep moving instead of constantly stopping and pulling off again.
Plan your trips along the shortest routes and avoid routes with lots of crossings and pedestrians. Stay out of peak hour and heavy traffic as much as possible, Beard says. You can monitor traffic reports and Google Maps to avoid traffic snarl-ups.