Chasing cheap fuel: when is it not worth it?

By Wade O'Leary on 12 April 2017
my nrma app saves motorists on fuel

The my nrma app has proven to be nothing less than a sensation with our Members, with nearly 300,000 downloads since the launch of the fuel price search function in August last year.

Users can find out where the cheapest petrol and diesel is anywhere in NSW and can compare prices between all servos in any given location, but Dave F wonders when the search for the best deal ceases to be worthwhile.

“What’s the point if travelling to get cheaper fuel in the long run costs more just in travel, making the cheaper price point moot anyways?” he asked.

It’s a fair question, and one that can be answered with a reasonable amount of precision.

The current range of the market-wide average price cycle for regular unleaded in Sydney is between $1.35 and $1.16 per litre, so calculations made by our friends down south at RACV on a price of $1.26 per litre are pretty much ideal for this demonstration.

They assumed a 50 litre refill of a vehicle with fuel consumption of 10.9 litres per 100km and found that a round trip of longer than 3.7km negates the savings benefit of buying petrol at 1 cent per litre cheaper than if you were to use a servo in the immediate vicinity.

Using the same calculations, it’s not worth going any further than 7.4km to save 2 cents per litre; 11.2km for 3 cents per litre; 15km for 4 cents per litre; 19km for 5 cents per litre; 39.5km for 10 cents per litre; or 86.6km for 20 cents per litre.

Clearly the results differ with the price of fuel, but a good rule of thumb is the “2-for-1 rule” where it’s not worth driving more than 2km each way (for a 4km round trip) for every cent per litre saved.

Of course, the fact that price differentials of 10 to 20 cents per litre are not uncommon within Sydney suburbs – or between country towns within a short drive of each other – means that it is still well worth using the my nrma app to find the best deal near you. 

But do remember to keep things in perspective, or all you’ll be doing is wasting time and fuel. 

We'll keep you up to speed with fuel price news and advice on our fuel resources page and through the my nrma app.


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