Rising Fuel Prices: Tips for Saving at the Pumps

South African consumers have felt a lot of pressure at the gas pump this month, and the bad news is that another substantial increase in fuel prices is expected in April.

Petrol soared well above R21/litre in March, and in April this figure could reach close to R24/litre. Diesel should increase by more than R3/litre. The underlying cause is the movement of international oil prices, due to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the world’s third largest oil producer.

South African fuel prices are calculated and adjusted monthly by the Department of Minerals and Energy, and the outlook may change significantly before the monthly amount is set.

“More than ever, it is essential to do your research before buying a vehicle, then to insure and maintain it properly, and to monitor your driving,” said Shafeeka Anthony, marketing manager of the finance website Personal, JustMoney.co.za.

Anthony suggests several ways to increase your fuel savings:

Research operating costs

Your car, along with your home, is probably your most valuable asset. Research the running costs of various car models, as a more fuel-efficient vehicle will save money on routine fill-ups.

While smaller cars are generally more efficient, advances in technology, such as stop-start technology and manufacturers’ push to produce smaller engines, have meant that even late model, larger cars can be just as efficient. Proper research before purchase is therefore imperative.

It is essential to ensure that in the event of an accident or theft, you can cope with the mishap. A car insurer will consider many factors, such as your age, where you live and possibly your financial situation. Installing a tracking device could give you greater peace of mind and lower your premiums.

Fuel-efficient driving

Work from home and, when driving, choose off-peak hours if possible. Use a navigation system to choose a direct route to your destination.

Remove heavy objects from the trunk or rear seat, as well as roof racks when not in use, as vehicle aerodynamics play an important role in fuel efficiency.

Go easy on traffic. Accelerating from a stop uses more energy than when your vehicle is in motion. Obey the speed limit and drive smoothly, avoiding hard braking and erratic acceleration. You will consume less fuel and be safer on the road.

Air conditioner compressors use engine power and increase fuel consumption, especially at low speeds. Select economy mode and keep the windows closed or use a fan only.

Excessive idle speed is unnecessary, as modern fuel injection systems provide for cold starts. While driving, do not over-shift. Changing gears at the right rpm is arguably the most effective way to reduce your fuel consumption.

Many banks and retailers have partnered with fuel suppliers to reward customers with points or cash back. It could make your fuel and grocery purchases more profitable.

Maintenance of the car

Service your car regularly, use the correct engine oil, and check that the wheel alignment is within manufacturer specifications.

Properly balanced high-quality tires will not only last longer and give you a smoother ride, but tires with the correct tire pressure can dramatically improve fuel efficiency. Checking tire pressure weekly is a simple action, but can dramatically improve your fuel costs.

If you have a dispute with a mechanic or other auto industry service provider and find yourself at an impasse, you can contact the South African Auto Industry Ombudsman.

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