How to save money on petrol
17 ways to save at the pump
Cars are more efficient these days. Yet Kiwi drivers still spend staggering amounts of money on petrol.
The latest data available from Statistics NZ says that the average NZ household spends a whopping $2,522 each year at the pump. This is a significant increase since data was last collected in 2016.
Since the reporting period ended, taxes on petrol have gone up, so the annual figure is now probably even higher.
Why is it so expensive here?
It’s no surprise that countries with well-developed oil and gas industries pay a lot less at the pump than we do. This includes Australia, the US, and Canada, which are the three most affordable developed countries to fill a regular car with a tank of gas.
As reported by the Automobile Association (“AA”), 55% of the petrol price we pay in NZ is different taxes, though it’s more if you live in Auckland and pay the additional 10c per litre Auckland Regional Fuel Tax.
Pay less at the pump
The actions you can take to reduce fuel consumption and overall driving costs fall into two broad categories:
- Driving and petrol-buying habits, and
- Activities directly related to your vehicle.
Modifying your driving and petrol-buying habits
1. Limit aircon or use eco-aircon
Using your car’s air conditioner can reduce fuel economy by as much as 25%. That’s especially pronounced in very hot weather, on short trips, and in hybrid-electric vehicles.
2. Reduce excess vehicle weight
You probably don’t think about it daily or it would be gone by now. But, all that extra junk in your vehicle’s boot could have a noticeable impact on its fuel economy, even if you’re not carrying bricks back there.
Dedicate a little time to clean out your car boot, removing anything you don’t regularly use. Store anything you need in your garage, shed, or spare room, and throw out or give away the rest.
3. Avoid petrol stations which charge more
There are now dedicated applications (“apps”) to help you seek out the best deal on petrol.
4. Keep the windows up
You might not notice the difference daily or even monthly, but keeping your car’s windows up improves your car’s aerodynamic performance and trims your fuel bill.
5. Make longer, less frequent errand runs
Reduce your total distance driven around town by consolidating those excursions whenever possible.
Instead of hitting the supermarket today, the home improvement store tomorrow, and somewhere else the day after, set aside a weekend afternoon (or weekday evening if your work schedule allows) to get them all done at once.
6. Minimise idling time
Avoid running your car’s motor whenever possible while parked or waiting.
That said, idling is unavoidable in certain situations, like warming up a car on a frosty morning. But you don’t need to let your car run for 30 minutes before hopping in.
Leave your car idling in the morning only as long as absolutely necessary to reach a comfortable interior temperature. Or, keep your coat on in the car and drive off as soon as you start the engine.
7. Observe the speed limit
Don’t waste fuel by exceeding the limit.
If you’ve got it, cruise control can help maintain a constant, law-abiding speed, especially on longer trips. Cruise control is nearly always gentler than human driving, helping to reduce excess fuel consumption through consistency.
8. Start and stop gradually
Even the most efficient route involves some stops and starts. To minimise the impact on your fuel economy and cost, execute them as gently as possible.
Accelerate slowly and coast gradually to a braking stop.
FuelEconomy.gov reports that these driving practices can reduce fuel consumption by up to 40% in stop-and-go traffic and up to 30% on the motorway.
9. Take the most efficient route to your destination
Cars burn more fuel during acceleration than while coasting or cruising. That means the most fuel-efficient route to your destination isn’t necessarily the shortest. It’s the route that requires the least acceleration and deceleration — the one with fewer stoplights, less congestion, lower traffic volumes, or better traffic flow overall.
10. Get rewards and discounts
If you don’t already, use one of the many petrol station rewards schemes. This could involve airpoints, a discount from a supermarket, AA Smartfuel, or something else.
11. Remove roof racks and roof cargo boxes
Hauling cargo on your roof increases wind resistance and lowers fuel economy.
If you need to use an external cargo container, removing it when it's not in use will save you fuel and money.
12. Don’t drive at all!
You guessed it, the best way to save on petrol is to not drive at all! This could mean:
- Ride a bike to nearby locations instead
- Working or studying from home
- Public transport
- Carpooling (yes, you will still have to drive a little)
- Moving house to a more convenient location
Choosing and maintaining your vehicle
The biggest influence on your overall fuel bill is your vehicle itself. Choosing a more fuel-efficient car can reduce your petrol costs, all other things being equal.
In the meantime, you can optimise your current vehicle for fuel efficiency by doing some basic maintenance.
13. Purchase a hybrid or electric vehicle (EV)
When you’re ready to purchase a new or used car, look into a hybrid-electric, plug-in hybrid-electric, or all-electric vehicle.
14. Keep your tires properly inflated
Tires inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure can improve range by up to 3%.
You can find your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure in your owner’s manual.
15. Use the correct motor oil blend and fuel grade
Simply using the engine oil blend recommended by your vehicle manufacturer (available in your owner’s manual) can boost fuel economy. So too can upgrading to a newer, more fuel-efficient oil type at your next oil change.
Likewise, don’t fill up with premium petrol if your vehicle manufacturer doesn’t recommend it. If your car is built to handle regular unleaded, stick with that.
16. Check your petrol cap seal
If you drive an older vehicle, you might not get the courtesy of a warning light as your petrol cap seal weakens and allows oxygen to leak into the gas tank, burning more fuel in the process.
Fortunately, many petrol caps are cheap, typically retailing for under $30 at major retailers.
17. Follow your car’s recommended maintenance schedule
Proper vehicle maintenance improves vehicle fuel economy and reduces harmful emissions.
- Keeping your vehicle’s oxygen sensor in good working order is especially important. A faulty sensor can reduce fuel economy by as much as 40%.
- Periodically replacing your air filter and spark plugs (whether on your own or during a routine auto checkup) can help your engine burn gas more efficiently. Replacing an air filter is an easy DIY car maintenance job that should cost you no more than $50 on your own.
- Simply keeping your engine tuned — a key component of manufacturer-recommended scheduled maintenance — can improve fuel economy by 4%.
The bottom line – how to save on petrol
Follow a few of the tips above and you can keep some of the $2,500 that the average Kiwi household spends on fuel each year in your own pocket.
Then you can spend it or invest it towards things that really matter!