12 tips to help save on fuel when driving in South Africa – and how much your aircon costs you

The Automobile Association (AA) says that the Easter weekend will see many families planning short vacations across South Africa at a time when fuel prices are at record levels in April. And this is despite a recent reduction of R1.50 on the general fuel levy.

This will continue to add financial pressure to all South Africans, said the AA.

“Government’s intervention has cushioned the blow somewhat, but it hasn’t entirely taken the pain away.”

The AA stressed that it appreciates that there is no quick-fix solution to mitigate rising fuel costs, and the current high prices cannot be sustained by a consumer base already reeling from increased rates to, among others, electricity costs and food prices, and public transport fares.

If you are driving a car with a 45-litre tank, you can expect to pay close to R988 for 95 unleaded and R945 for 0.05% diesel to fill your tank. A 60-litre tank will cost roughly R1,317 to fill up with 95 unleaded and R1,261 with 0.05% diesel.

Owners of bakkies or SUVs with 80-litre tank sizes will face the brunt of the high petrol prices, with a full tank of 95 unleaded costing R1,756 and diesel R1,680.

Consumers don’t only face petrol price hikes but slow economic growth, high inflation and high unemployment, which has led to a significant increase in living costs, said Iain Power of asset management firm Truffle.

The table below shows what can be expected from petrol stations across South Africa:

Inland April official
95 Petrol R21.96
93 Petrol R21.63
0.05% diesel (wholesale) R21.01
0.005% diesel (wholesale) R21.24
Illuminating Paraffin R15.84
Coastal April official
95 Petrol R21.24
93 Petrol R21.01
0.05% diesel (wholesale) R20.40
0.005% diesel (wholesale) R20.64
Illuminating Paraffin R15.03

Gumtree and DialDirect provide the following ways consumers can save from record-high petrol prices; according to DialDirect, adopting some of these tips can boost the fuel efficiency of your car by as much as 40%:

  • Plan trips ahead of time – Using apps like Waze or Google Maps to plot routes can help avoid unwanted traffic and ensure you get to your destination as soon as possible.
  • Accelerate efficiently – The most fuel-efficient way to accelerate is to take up to 20 seconds to get to 80km/h, with a gentle start in the low gears, a more rapid move through the middle gears before settling into the more economic higher gears.
  • Manage tyre pressure and wear  – A vehicle’s tyres play a huge role in its fuel economy, so buy the best you can afford and ensure they’re inflated to the correct level. Check wear and tear regularly, as this could impact alignment and performance too.
  • Drive more leisurely – Not only will it save on petrol, but braking less harshly means that your brake pads last longer, as do your tyres, which means you’ll spend less on long term maintenance. This is particularly important as tyres are not cheap, and they’re also not typically covered by motor plans.
  • Choose the vehicle you need – While it may be tempting to buy that a gas guzzling roadster with a big engine, that’s the car going to the consumer the most petrol – particularly if your driving is mostly in urban areas.
  • Limit your use of air conditioning – but don’t replace it with opened windows. While your car’s air conditioner can account for as much as 5% of your fuel bill, it causes the most significant fuel consumption when the vehicle is idling. Rather turn the air conditioner up once you’ve reached full speed for the most efficient use of your car’s resources – and keep the windows closed, which reduces drag and further saves fuel.
  • Service smart – A car can burn up to 30% more fuel if proper maintenance is not performed regularly.  Things like worn spark plugs, worn rings, faulty injectors, sticky brakes, low coolant levels, dirty oil, and dirty filters add up to engine inefficiency, leading to more fuel being consumed.
  • Ensure correct wheel alignment- Check your car’s wheel alignment. Bad wheel alignment causes more friction, which takes more power to overcome and results in higher fuel usage.
  • Deadweight – Reduce the vehicle’s weight by removing unnecessary items from it and, if you mostly do city driving, consider driving with only half a tank of fuel.
  • Don’t stop-start – Maintain momentum as far as possible by looking , flowing with traffic and timing your approaches to hills, traffic lights and crossings better.
  • Make use of available tech – Many vehicles have economy settings to optimise performance, throttle response, ride height etc, for maximum fuel efficiency. Use them to your advantage.
  • Wait out the rush – Battling through traffic increases fuel consumption and the wear and tear on your vehicle’s transmission and brakes.

Read: Key highways closed in South Africa due to flooding

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12 tips to help save on fuel when driving in South Africa – and how much your aircon costs you