The cost of fuel: Are you feeling the pinch?

Aussie motorists are doing their best to preserve fuel, but many still face days when they can’t afford to fill up at the bowser.

Canstar Blue surveyed more than 2,600 drivers across the country and found 66% are taking measures to limit their fuel consumption, like turning off their engine while stopped for short periods, driving at reduced speeds and not using air-conditioning. And 42% are using their car less to save money on fuel.

Despite that, 27% of motorists have faced days when they couldn’t afford to fill up, and 18% have been forced to choose between buying fuel and buying food.

Three in five drivers closely follow fuel pricing and only fill up on days when petrol is the cheapest. And one in five said they would drive more than 10 kilometres in their search for cheap fuel.

Cost of fuel - Our infographic for Fuel Feelings 2015

Head of Canstar Blue, Megan Doyle, said young motorists are feeling the most financial strain because of fuel costs and are the most likely to limit the use of their vehicle as a result.

“A lot of drivers clearly dread seeing their fuel gauge lean towards empty – particularly those in their 20s and 30s,” she said. “No one enjoys paying for petrol, but for some people it’s more than just a minor irritations, it’s a serious concern that leaves them with some difficult financial decisions to make. More than a quarter of motorists in their late 20s have faced the dilemma of whether to buy fuel or food.

“It’s no surprise that 89% of motorists think Australians pay too much for fuel.”

How much do we spend on fuel?

The Canstar Blue survey found the average monthly fuel spend to be $132, with motorists in their 40s ($152) spending the most and those aged 70 or over ($95) the least. And men ($142) were found to spend more than women ($121). Across the country, drivers in Victoria ($140) spend the most and those in Western Australia ($110) the least.

Is public transport the answer?

Aussies are split over whether or not public transport would save them money, with 57% of the opinion that driving works out cheaper. But many motorists are reluctant to swap their car for a bus or train, as just 39% of survey respondents said they would drive less if public transport was cheaper. Motorists in their 20s and 30s (52%) were the most likely to leave their car at home if they thought it would save them money.

Survey outcomes by state

Queensland: Motorists in Queensland spend an average of $127 a month on fuel. They are the most adamant that driving works out cheaper than using public transport (72%) but are the most willing to use their car less if it was cheaper (43%). They are the most likely to drive more than 10 kilometres for cheap fuel (21%) and are the most likely to have days when they can’t afford to fill up (30%).

New South Wales: Drivers in New South Wales spend an average of $133 a month on fuel. After Tasmanians they are the least likely to follow fuel pricing and fill up on days when petrol is the cheapest (55%) and along with Victorians are the least likely to have restricted the use of their vehicle to save money (40%).

Victoria: Motorists in Victoria spend an average of $140 a month on fuel – the highest in the country. They are the least likely to have restricted the use of their car to save money (39%) and are the least likely to drive 10 kilometres or more for cheap fuel. And along with South Australians are the most divided over whether it’s cheaper to drive than use public transport (53%).

South Australia: Drivers in South Australia spend an average of $134 a month on fuel. Along with Western Australians they are the most likely to follow fuel prices and fill up on days when petrol is the cheapest, and are most likely to preserve fuel when driving to save money (71%). They are also the most likely to be using their car less to save money on fuel (48%) and are split down the middle on whether or not driving is cheaper than using public transport (50%).

Western Australia: Motorists in Western Australia spend an average of $110 a month on fuel – the lowest in the country. They are the most likely to follow fuel pricing and fill up on days when petrol is cheapest (73%) and are amongst the most likely to preserve fuel when driving to save money. They are the most likely to have days when they must decide between buying food or fuel (22%) and along with Tasmanians are the least likely to use their car less if public transport was cheaper (33%).

Tasmania: Drivers in Tasmania spend an average of $118 a month on fuel. They are the least likely to follow fuel pricing and fill up on days when petrol is the cheapest (31%) and are the least likely to have days when they can’t afford to fill up (22%). They are also the least likely to leave their car at home if public transport was cheaper (20%).

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