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 New Zealand 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.
Here are 12 actions you can take to reduce you costs at the pump:
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 blocks back there.
Dedicate a little time to cleaning 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 out 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 and deicing 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. Apple Maps and Google Maps are both great at this.
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
The bottom line
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!