How to make your petrol or diesel go further

How to make your petrol or diesel go further
(Photo: Dwayne Senior / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

While you can’t change the cost of fuel, changing your driving habits can mean better fuel economy.

Although drivers of diesel vehicles saw some relief this month with a reduction of between 48 cents and 74 cents a litre, those with petrol vehicles had to absorb a price increase of 37 cents a litre. The price increase means that inland drivers will now pay R23.34 a litre, while those on the coast will pay R22.62 a litre (for 95 petrol).

FNB senior economist Koketso Mano provided the following breakdown explaining how fuel prices are calculated:

Basic Fuel Price (BFP): The BFP makes up roughly 53% of the total price of fuel over the past three months. The BFP is made up of the purchase price of fuel as well as freight costs, insurance, storage and financing. In SA, the fuel price is adjusted on the first Wednesday of every month and is determined by two main factors: the rand/US dollar exchange rate (how fuel is purchased) and international petroleum prices (how much the fuel costs to purchase).

Taxes and levies: These make up 31% of the total price of fuel over the past three months, with the General Fuel Levy (GFL) and Road Accident Fund (RAF) levy accounting for the largest portion. The GFL goes to the National Treasury and the government is free to use this levy in any manner it deems fit. The RAF levy can only be used for road accident claims.

Wholesale and retail margins: These, as well as distribution and transport costs, are the final contributors to the gross petrol price. These are costs associated with transport and storage, customs and excise duties, and retail margins for fuel station owners, and make up about 15% of the total fuel price over the past three months.

Mano says the trend in petrol prices is expected to worsen over the remainder of the year.

As the Automobile Association observes: “The decrease [in] diesel and paraffin prices is certainly good news, especially as the country enters colder months. But the increases [in] the petrol prices will add more strain to already stretched budgets… Petrol price increases will come as bad news for many who will have to dig even deeper in their pockets to keep mobile.”

While you can’t change the cost of fuel, changing your driving habits can mean better fuel economy. Here are some tips:

  • Turn off the air conditioning unless you really need it.
  • Avoid stop-start driving. Maintain a constant speed rather than accelerating and using your brakes over long distances, and slow down gently when driving short distances.
  • Avoid excessive idling. During idling periods of several minutes or more, switch off your engine if possible when it is safe to do so.
  • Slow down. Accelerating steadily to your desired speed reduces fuel consumption. For petrol cars, it is recommended that you change gears at 2,500rpm and for diesel cars, the recommendation is to change gears at 2,000rpm.

Fuel rewards programmes

Recent consumer research by Eighty20 found that fuel was the second-most preferred rewards partner for a banking loyalty programme, surpassed only by groceries.

Steve Burnstone, the CEO of Eighty20, notes that fuel rewards in SA were first introduced in about 2010 by financial services loyalty programmes such as eBucks and Vitality as a partner benefit before grocery and health retailers joined the party.

“More recently, however, the fuel retailers have been launching their own standalone loyalty programmes, starting with Shell V+ in 2021 and then Sasol, Astron Energy and TotalEnergies,” he says.

FNB confirms that fuel is one of the top three choices for eBucks spending.

What to ask before you join a loyalty programme

  1. What are they doing with my data? Some companies use loyalty programmes to leverage your data through targeted advertising, while others use this information to improve their own processes. You need to know how protected your information is.
  2. Is the reward worth the effort? Weigh up the effort you have to put in against the rewards you are going to earn.
  3. Does this partner make sense for me? Decide if it makes sense for you to use a specific partner. For example, if you drive past a BP on your daily route and the nearest Caltex is 25km out of your way, that should be a factor when you choose a fuel loyalty programme. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly DM168 newspaper which is available countrywide for R29.


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  • Lawrence Sisitka says:

    I know how retentive this sounds, but for about the last 12 months I have consciously reduced my acceleration and kept my speed between 100 and 110 except when overtaking, and on a rough calculation have saved about 20% on my fuel consumption. This doesn’t make up for all the increases in diesel prices (I drive Ford Ranger bakkie) but goes quite a long way. It also, of course, reduces my emissions by about the same percentage. OK it takes about 30 minutes longer for a 500km drive, but it’s hardly noticeable for shorter drives, say under 150km.

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