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

DRUM - - Contents - BY RICHARD VAN RENS­BURG EX­TRA SOURCES: AA.CO.ZA, UCSUSA.ORG, RMI.ORG.ZA, HYPERMILER.CO.UK

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.

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