When it comes to buying fuel for his vehicle, our Richard Robertson reckons it really does pay to shop around for the best deal…

LIKE ME, our turbo-diesel Ford Transit motorhome enjoys a drink, although I hasten to add my preference is grape, not oil-based. Fuel prices are an emotive issue and sometimes you need to take a step back and weigh up the difference a couple of cents a litre makes versus the time/inconvenience of hunting the best deal. And then there are times like last week…

The Transit’s 80-litre tank needed a decent fill and I found myself in my usual fuel buying haunt around Prestons, in Sydney’s South-West. I live and work on the rural fringe of the Southern Highlands, but, only a desperado/fool/lotto winner would buy fuel locally. Although never been proven it’s believed local service station operators decide fuel prices on a whim and that’s it. It usually bears no resemblance to the price up or down the Hume Highway and almost all local outlets seem to sell at exactly the same price.

Fortunately, work and play regularly take me to Sydney, so Prestons – a proverbial bee’s dick off the M5/M7 Interchange – makes an ideal refueling point. Because my local supermarket is Woolworths I, like many of you, am Rewards Card conditioned to search for the 4 cent per litre discount offered by the Fresh Fuel People. But I’m an equal opportunity shopper and because my flight attendant wife has been shopping in them in America for years, I also play the Costco game. That involves parting with $55 for an annual business membership ($60 for private – go figure) for the right to shop its spacious aisle and buy its discounted fuel.

As a rule Costco’s diesel fuel price is usually the same or one cent per litre lower than a nearby Woolies. Depending on whether I’m heading north or south, the time of day and occasionally the alignment of the planets (only kidding about the time of day) depends on which outlet I use.

So there I was one morning last week with time on my hands and a hankering for a Bacon and Egg McMuffin. I should have mentioned that McMuffin’s hatch next door to those bright green fuel pumps and this often sways my purchasing decisions.

“Holy snapping armpits!” I thought as I headed for my breakfast rendezvous and noticed Woolies diesel at 119.9 that day. A week or so earlier it had been around 108.9 (I remember these things). With breakfast done and McDusted, and the luxury of a little extra time, I headed for Costco just up the road: 103.9!

The Transit took about 65 litres, which at 16 cents per litre difference meant a saving of more than $10. If I were a tradie, courier or other small business filling up every day that would amount to something like $2500 annually. Okay, this was an extreme price disparity, but differences like these are out there and oil companies capitalise on them. The bottom line is, well, the bottom line. It does pay to shop around, so keep your eyes open, use online tools and whatever you do, fuel-up before visiting this part of the world. Now, imagine if Aldi got into the petrol business. That would be interesting – no fuelling…


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About Author

Richard Robertson

A life-long car nut and son of a Holden Man, Richard Robertson was raised in the days when a kid could know every car make and model on sale. Having worked across four-wheel drive and mainstream car magazines, and owned a pop-top Kombi in the early 80s, Richard launched iMotorhome in early 2012: A free downloadable PDF magazine and website dedicated to all-things motorhome and campervan in Australia. More than 100 issues later and with a iMotorhome New Zealand launching soon, iMotorhome has become a must-read for Grey Nomads and all lovers of motorised RVs. Find it at www.imotorhome.com.au and on Facebook at facebook.com/imotorhome.


  1. Personally, worthy article on an aspect where most of us tend to ignore. The price disparity between the same branded outlets differ considerably even though they just less 2-3 km’s apart, so we can never expect a competitors price to be the same. Rarely such outlets planets align. Based on such observation, I had determined what you had pointed in the artcile; i.e. local fuel operators decide on the price. So much so for fair trading…

  2. When the Govt announced the fuel app, all country prices sky-rocketed to maximum prices, no comparative prices here on North Coast, the fuel station at Laurieton was given the thumbs up as being cheapest, until the app was announced then it reverted to the same as others, diesel here was cheaper than Taree. The fuel prices during last school holidays at Forster was cheaper than Taree, but reverted back to high prices after schools returned. Whenever Govts stick their noses in where it’s not wanted, you can be sure you’ll pay for it, one way or the other

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