Johannesburg - Motorists will welcome a petrol price decrease this month, thanks to the stronger rand, but the cost of fuel is volatile and, while we may see some relief this year, further increases are likely.
We may also be in for some added pain this month as Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba is due to deliver his budget speech. He will be under pressure to fund President Jacob Zuma’s fee-free higher education plan, which means we will most likely see an increase in taxes, as well as in the general fuel and Road Accident Fund levies, which are included in the price of petrol and diesel.
With a budget shortfall of about R50 billion announced last year, the Automobile Association of SA points out that government could hike these levies so that it is able to source additional revenue.
The association is against these increases and is urging government to consider the effect they may have on the poorest people in South Africa, who will suffer from an increase in the fuel price through higher food costs, as well as bus and taxi fares.
If you don’t have much wiggle room in your budget this year and therefore can’t afford to deal with higher fuel prices when they arise, there are a few things you can do to decrease your usage and save money in the process.
Be a better driver
If you like revving your vehicle unnecessarily, speeding, braking hard and suddenly, and driving in lower gears, you may get to your destination faster, but you’ll be chewing up your petrol. Rather try to maintain a steady speed and use cruise control if you can.
Take some time out to plan your trip so that you don’t get lost and waste petrol. Make sure you’re travelling along the most efficient route and, if possible, avoid traffic jams. Try to complete as many errands as possible in one go so that you don’t regularly end up on the road for short, petrol-wasting trips.
Maintain your vehicle
According to car insurer Indwe, it’s important to ensure that your vehicle is serviced regularly. Also make sure that you check your tyre pressure every time you fill up at the garage. Incorrect tyre pressure is dangerous and increases your use of fuel.
Automobile Association spokesperson Layton Beard says: “If you maintain your vehicle and tyre pressure, your car will use the optimal amount of fuel. However, if you have a faulty air conditioner, for example, you need more energy to run the engine, so it stands to reason that you’d need more fuel.”
Lose the weight
If you travel with unnecessary and heavy items in your boot or keep your roof rack on when you’re not using it, the extra weight will increase your fuel consumption.
“You’ll also use more fuel if you have a trailer or caravan as the engine needs to work harder,” says Beard.
If you tend to travel in the same direction as friends, colleagues or neighbours, find out if you can start a car pool.
However, Beard warns: “Have the discussion with your insurer about carpooling. Find out what happens if you are involved in a crash. Is there any liability on the driver of the vehicle if involved in an accident?”
Also check if insurers consider it a business transaction if others pay towards the trip. In such cases, you may not be covered unless you pay a higher premium.
Alternatively, consider using ridesharing platforms such as CarTrip, which connects drivers with potential passengers via an app.
CarTrip founder Chris Faure says: “If you estimate that most people drive a round trip to work of about 30km a day, and that many cars use four to five litres of fuel per 30km, if you carpool with one other person for a full year, you would save about 1 000 litres of petrol.”
If you are able to switch to a car that is more fuel efficient or even electric, you’ll save again.
According to Nissan SA, the electric Nissan Leaf costs R25 to R30 to fully charge, according to current Eskom pricing. A full charge will give you a range of about 130km.
Nthabiseng Maganya, information and leads supervisor at Nissan SA, says: “If compared with a similar petrol car, which can do about 600km per 60-litre tank of fuel, which costs about R800, the Leaf will cost about R115 for the same mileage.”
Ditch your car
If at all possible, rather use public transport. If this isn’t available, try using travel apps such as Uber and Taxify.
If you’re going to sell your car, make sure that you’re able to pay off your car loan with the money you get from it. It doesn’t make sense to ditch your vehicle if you will struggle to make car repayments.
To ensure that you’re making the right decision, compare the costs of maintaining a car versus using Uber or public transport. Take into account the depreciation of your vehicle, the cost of maintenance, insurance, parking, cleaning, licencing and petrol, and compare that to the cost of taking public transport or Uber. If you’ll save lots of money by ditching your car, it’s a no-brainer.
The stronger rand may have given motorists some relief this month, but February brings uncertainty politically and financially – international markets will be watching closely to see what happens during the state of the nation address this week, and then Gigaba will have his say on February 21, so motorists need to tread carefully.
“Keep an eye on the petrol price and know what it is. If you do realise any savings, keep that money and don’t spend it on something else. You have to be disciplined,” says Beard.* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER