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How to beat the petrol price cycle

By Tom Fraser, 11 Aug 2019 Car Advice

petrol nozzle

Want to get ahead of the curve on petrol price cycles? Turns out you can predict them to some degree

It may seem an impossible feat to predict the future, but when it comes to fuel prices, there are ways to find out the best possible time for you to fill up.

A petrol price cycle is defined as the movement in retail price from a low point to high point, and back to a low point again. The duration of this cycle differs throughout Australia, but generally, for the east coast, it lasts close to a month, while the west coast is a shorter cycle, being closer to a week.

Read: Rising petrol prices spark calls for reduced retail margins and tax reductions

Short term petrol price cycles are predominately governed by Australian retailers which, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), are “the result of deliberate pricing policies of petrol retailers, and are not directly related to changes in wholesale costs.”

It kind of makes you feel helpless if they’re all in on it together, doesn't it? But we can game the system by using historical data and current trends to predict the ideal time for you to fill your tank.

Let’s start with a few caveats. Ultimately, there are many factors that influence the end price of petrol at the bowser, including crude oil prices, exchange rates, tax policy, and supply disruptions.

Additionally, some of us burn through petrol sooner than others, rendering you helpless when your fuel light blinks on. In that case, you’ll just have to fill up, no matter the price.

Read next: Fuel Comparison: Diesel, petrol or LPG?

For those of us who can sway with the cycles, it’s worth keeping an eye on (and bookmarking on your internet browser) the constantly-updated ACCC petrol fuel price guide.

Previously unavailable to consumers, recent court action allows the ACCC to list petrol price cycles (with the help of fuel price consultants Fueltrac.com.au) for Australians to monitor.

The ACCC provides fuel price graphs, fuel price trends and buying information for every state, allowing motorists to make informed decisions.

Read next: Wheels Investigation: Australia's petrol is one of the dirtiest in the world

In the long term, GlobalPetrolPrices.com forecasts that there’s an unlikely chance that we will see significantly higher prices in the coming years. Due to burgeoning electric car sales and as environmental standards get tougher, it seems petrol might actually have to become competitive with alternative fuel choices, thereby stagnating or dampening increased end fuel prices.

They have also estimated that crude oil prices will remain steady well into 2020.

So, barring any unforeseen circumstances, Australian fuel prices should remain familiar to what they currently are for the time being.

If you’re keen on beating the Australian petrol retailers, though, keep an eye on the fuel price cycles which will give you an indication of when you should be topping up.

 

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