ACCC: Australians could have saved millions with petrol price apps
$85 million here, $68 million there, give or take.
The ACCC has estimated that petrol price apps could very easily save Australia hundreds of millions of dollars a year, simply by letting motorists fill up off-peak.
"There can be significant price differences between sites at different points in the price cycle, so motorists that shop around can save themselves a lot of money," said ACCC chairman Rod Sims. Each city follows its own roughly monthly price cycle, during which average retail petrol prices rise and fall dramatically, while prices can also vary widely between petrol stations. The right timing helps with the former, and the apps can help with the latter.
"Motorists who fill up weekly can make substantial savings by avoiding the six most expensive days in the price cycle... Motorists that can fill up less frequently, however, and therefore buy petrol when prices are falling can save much more."
"Our advice for those looking to save even more, say 15–20 cpl, or $9–12 a tank, is to time your purchases by using the price cycle advice on the ACCC website, then use fuel price transparency apps or websites to find the most competitive fuel price near you," Mr Sims said.
Essentially, the less frequently you fill up, the more freedom you have to avoid the peak prices on the cycle. For example, the ACCC estimates that Sydney motorists could have saved around 2.6 cents per litre (cpl) on E10 by avoiding the 6 highest priced days of the cycle.
In the last year, this would have saved Sydneysiders around $85 million.
But if they're able to avoid the 10 highest prices days, the savings grow dramatically to 3.8-6.1 cpl in cities around Australia, with Sydney saving an estimated $141 million.
The savings vary between different cities based on the usual price cycles and typical petrol prices. The ACCC also estimates that:
- Melbourne residents could have saved about $75 million by avoiding the 6 peak days (average RULP prices 2.3cpl cheaper), or $124 million by avoiding the 10 peak days
- Adelaide residents could have saved about $30 million by avoiding the 6 peak days (average RULP prices 3.3cpl cheaper), or $55 million by avoiding the 10 peak days.
- Brisbane residents could have saved about $40 million by avoiding the 6 peak days (average RULP prices 2.4cpl cheaper) or $68 million by avoiding the 10 peak days.
How to do it
"For those seeking to save money a little effort can see large savings," says Sims.
- Check the ACCC price cycle graphs to find out when average petrol prices are the highest and lowest in your city. Fill up before the price spikes and try to avoid them. You can find a current petrol "forecast" here or look at the graphs below for a sense of the cycles.
- Use a petrol price app to compare prices and shop around between individual petrol stations.
The second step is probably especially important in places like Brisbane where a lack of competition is driving petrol prices higher. It might also be worth remembering that the proliferation of petrol rewards cards can also help bring extra bonuses at the pump, especially if you can't always get away from the peak prices in each cycle.
Sydney petrol price cycle April-September 2017
Melbourne petrol price cycle April-September 2017
Brisbane petrol price cycle April-September 2017
Adelaide petrol price cycle April-September 2017
Pictures: Shutterstock, ACCC