Savvy motorists are saving hundreds of dollars each year by showing a greater app-reciation for “real-time” cheap fuel searches on their smartphone to beat Sydney’s growing bowser pain.

A NewsLocal investigation last week found a whopping 42c a litre price disparity for E10 unleaded fuel within a 4km stretch in the south-west as Sydney’s pump prices hit a three-year high.

The NSW Government’s FuelCheck app showed motorists bought heavily discounted E10 fuel for 107.9c/l at Metro Narwee on Wednesday as Coles Express Kingsgrove sold it for 149.9.

It meant motorists could have saved $25 filling up an average 60-litre tank of fuel by monitoring live prices and trends on popular apps including FuelCheck, my nrma and MotorMouth.

The average highs and lows of E10 unleaded petrol prices across Sydney last week.

Motorists in the eastern suburbs and lower north shore were slugged prices well above Sydney’s E10 average of 122.5c/l on Wednesday, with BP Edgecliff charging up to 145.4 and Coles Express Willoughby hitting 138.9.

Amy Tresidder, of Paddington, said she had “noticed prices have been creeping up over the past year”.

“It’s not good,” she said as she filled up at BP Edgecliff on Thursday, when E10 fuel cost 142.9c/l.

Later that day at Metro Narwee, Troy Gordon was all smiles as he filled up with the E10 price at 117.9.

“Narwee definitely has the cheapest fuel in Sydney. I regularly drive up to Palm Beach where it’s always 20-25c/l more than here,” the Taren Point professional fisherman said.

The state’s peak motoring body said the cheapest fuel prices were mostly in “go-through suburbs”.

“These are in areas including the inner west and south-west where rents are cheaper so independent service stations can afford to charge lower prices, and this leads to greater competition,” NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said.

“In the eastern suburbs you have less competition and this naturally means higher prices.”

FUELtrac analysis shows Sydney is near the bottom of the petrol price cycle after it hit an average high of 143.5 on February 18.

APP-ETITE FOR SAVINGS

THE ‘my nrma’ app aims to “shift the balance of power away from the oil companies and put it back into the public’s hands”.

“Conservatively, our members are now saving $500 a year by finding the cheapest prices on the app,” Mr Khoury said.

“We can give our (2.6 million) members the real-time data now across the city. That doesn’t close the 40c gap for E10 fuel, but it enables people to make the most of discounts when they are there and to ignore the highest-priced service station.

“We’ve had 600,000 downloads since the app was launched 18 months ago, and over the past year we’ve had 662,000 typed-in suburb searches for fuel. Blacktown and Prestons have been among the five most popular searches.”

Minister for Finance, Services and Property Victor Dominello.

Minister for Finance, Services and Property Victor Dominello said the FuelCheck app was a “game changer” for motorists.

“More than 150,000 people have downloaded the app since its launch last October,” he said. “That many people can’t be wrong and motorists have clearly given FuelCheck the thumbs up.

“By providing motorists with a bird’s-eye view of the market and shining a spotlight on petrol prices, users of the app can potentially save hundreds of dollars a year.”

This chart shows the difference between each major retailer’s average E10 price and the market average E10 price in Sydney in the period January 1 to April 30, 2017.

POPULAR PETROL APPS

— FuelCheck: The government’s app includes a ‘favourite stations’ function and a ‘my trip’ function which uses Google Maps to help users find the cheapest petrol station on their journey. There is also a trends page, which shows the cheapest day of the week to fill up and the day’s price range.

— My NRMA: This app has the same real-time petrol prices near you, and you can select your fuel type.

— MotorMouth: Users can search by combined fuel types, including E10/unleaded 91, and diesel/premium diesel when using the MotorMouth website or app to compare fuel prices.

— 7-Eleven: This app allows users to find 7-Eleven’s best local fuel price and lock it in for seven days.

— GasBuddy Australia: Compete against other GasBuddies by reporting good fuel prices and helping others save fuel.

* Each of these can be downloaded at the Apple apps store or on Google Play for android users.

‘BUY UP NOW’

Mr Khoury says “now is the time to buy up” as the price cycle is “likely to work against us” over the Easter long weekend, which is just over a fortnight away.

Last week’s NewsLocal petrol probe follows the competition watchdog’s latest fuel monitoring report which found the Harbour City’s average prices in the December 2017 quarter “increased significantly” and hit their highest levels since June 2015.

Sydney’s average fuel price increased from 118.8c/l in the September quarter to 133.6 in the next three months, a 14.8c/l hike.

“It’s important for retailers to explain to their customers why prices and gross margins are so high,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims said.

The latest Sydney petrol prices have backed up Mr Sims’ recent concerns about price gouging by Coles Express, after he called on motorists to boycott its servos in favour of lower-cost chains such as United, 7-Eleven and Woolworths.

According to FuelCheck, Coles Express service stations last week had the highest prices for E10 fuel in the Hornsby, Parramatta, Willoughby, Canterbury-Bankstown and Botany areas.

“With the Easter holiday season fast approaching, we encourage Sydney residents to use the available fuel price information tools to fight back against high petrol prices,” Mr Sims said.

‘EXTRA COSTS’ BEHIND FUEL HIKE

Retailers blame the recent fuel slug on a 36 per cent increase in oil prices since June last year, as well as extra overheads.

“Service station costs in areas such as electricity and rents have increased substantially since 2015, increasing by 80 per cent and 30 per cent respectively in the last 12 months alone,” said Mark McKenzie, CEO of the Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association (ACAPMA).

“And there have been four increases in fuel tax excise since January 1, 2015 (Federal fuel excise is now 40.9c/l).

“In respect of prices in the lead-up to Easter, motorists should check out the fuel price cycle information that is readily available on the ACCC website (accc.gov.au/consumers).”

Mr McKenzie said “brand loyalty” and the “physical design” of a servo were often more important to motorists than prices.

“You’ll find this comfort level is a key consideration for some people on where they buy petrol,” he said.

‘PRICE DEBATE LOST YEARS AGO’

ACAPMA — which represents 75 per cent of the 6700 big and small petrol retailers around Australia — concedes “we let the debate on fuel prices get away from us 20-25 years ago”.

“It’s important that we communicate better with motorists so they understand how petrol prices are set,” Mr McKenzie said.

He said it now cost about $7 million to set up in servo in Sydney and the break-even point for retailers was anywhere between six and 23 per cent, depending on whether the servo was in a metropolitan or regional location.

“It’s a big variance, and it also depends on whether you own or lease the site and what sort of petrol volume is turned over at the station,” Mr McKenzie said.

“There’s actually not a huge amount of money to be made in selling fuel. It’s why some operators are now supplementing their income in things like food and cafes.”

YOUR SAY

The ACCC says petrol prices are the highest they’ve been since 2015 across Sydney. What’s your reaction?

Susan Vass, of Paddington: “The (price rise) is very disappointing. And this particular station (BP Edgecliff) always has high prices. It’s a captured market and I only come here if I’m desperate to fill up.”

Kovit Jittipunyakul, of Sans Souci: “The prices should definitely be lower, especially in the eastern suburbs. It’s too high here compared to other areas of Sydney.”

Jeff Amery, of Queenscliff: “I’ve only been back in the country for four months (after living in the UK) and I haven’t found prices too bad here. They are higher overseas.

“I’ve only come in here (BP Edgecliff) today because it’s the only one in the area. I try and avoid it if possible (because of the high prices), but today was an exception.”

Mervat Diab, of Narwee: “I have been regularly coming here (to Metro Narwee) for about five years. I always find this one cheaper than the other stations in the area.”

Don German, of Narwee: “Prices have definitely been increasing lately, but this (Metro Narwee) station has the cheapest petrol I can find in this area.”

FIVE FUN FACTS

— The number of service stations in Australia peaked at 21,350 in 1966. It declined by 69 per cent to 6700 in 2017

— Retail sites operated by the two major supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, account for about 25 per cent of all servos in Australia

— The average retail petrol price was 57c/l in 1975, before rising to 63c in 1985, 74c in 1995 and 103.5c/l in 2005

— In 1975 the average annual fuel sales (petrol and diesel) was 700,000 litres. Last year it was 3.8 million litres

— The Australian petroleum industry employed more than 56,000 people and contributed $75 billion to the national economy in 2015

Extracted from The Daily Telegraph.

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