Dear Drive… Where we answer reader, viewer, and listener questions. Something on your mind? Call us on the radio show or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A number of readers have asked:
Petrol is expensive where I live, but cheaper about 20mins away. Is it worth the trip?
This is a very timely question as while fuel prices are generally dropping, they aren’t all dropping uniformly. A quick scan of prices in Melbourne shows a disparity of over $0.30 per litre depending on where you shop.
So is it worth going out of your way?
The short answer, is yes. And the distances that make it financially sensible may be further than you’d think.
We’ve used some basic maths to work out what you’re paying per kilometre at the high price, then found how far a return trip to a cheaper station would need to be to break even.
It’s all back-of-the-napkin stuff, but the common sense checks out.
If I needed a full tank, the nearest petrol station to the Drive office (BP Kingsway) shows a current price of $2.33 per litre of 95RON unleaded. That’s about $154 for a fill. Ouch.
However, a quick scan on the PetrolSpy website shows that about 9km away, the 7-Eleven in Hawthorn East has 95RON at $1.98 per litre. That means our tank would cost $131 to fill, or a difference of $23.50.
If we look at the first station, on my current use cycle, it will cost approximately $0.22 per kilometre to drive. Factoring in the return trip to a cheaper petrol station, our range reduces to 692km, but the average cost per kilometre drops to $0.19.
So yes, it’s worth the detour for a cheaper fill. But how much further could we go?
Basically, we need to find the point where a reduced range at a cheaper pump price equates to the same dollar-per-kilometre rate as a fill at the nearby bowser.
For my Mercedes, to fill up for $131 and still return a $0.22 cost per kilometre, our range would need to be 603km. That’s 107km less than the maximum, meaning anything under a 53km out-and-back trip to a petrol station with $1.98 per litre ’95 (equivalent to a run from Melbourne’s St Kilda Road to the outer-eastern suburb of Officer) is worth it.
Time and effort notwithstanding of course. Just think of it as a nice way to catch up on your favourite true-crime podcast or hair-metal playlist.
So, how far can you go?
We’ve created this little widget to help with your calculations. Simply type in your nearby fuel price, then the lowest price you can find, add in your fuel tank size and economy, and it will tell you the maximum distance you can go.
The bigger your tank, or the more efficient your car, the further out of your way you can go.
Bottom line, if there’s cheaper fuel even a 10km drive away, it’s probably worth the trip.
Have a question about your next set of wheels or just need some car advice? No query is too big, small or obscure! Call in to the radio show (Trent on 2GB Sydney 1:30pm Monday and 9:00pm Wednesday, 5AA South Australia 1:30pm Tuesday, and James on 3AW Melbourne 9:00pm each Thursday), or contact us by email here: email@example.com.
James has been part of the digital publishing landscape in Australia since 2002 and has worked within the automotive industry since 2007. He joined CarAdvice in 2013, left in 2017 to work with BMW and then returned at the end of 2019 to spearhead the content direction of Drive.