Sky-high petrol prices have been a major cost of living stress this year. Many Australians have been scrambling for ways to save, and at first glance, member rewards programs seem worth it.

After all, if your car insurance provider, preferred grocery store, or local servo offers to shave dollars off your fuel ticket, you should take them up on it, right? Or is there a better way to save?

Let’s break down how much these discounts could actually save you.

How much do Australians spend on fuel?

A simple question with a (sort of) complicated answer.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the average Australian passenger vehicle used 11.1 litres of fuel per 100 km in 2020, with petrol standing out as the most common fuel type bought at the bump.

Besides mileage, different types of passenger vehicles also have different fuel tank sizes, with smaller vehicles starting out at around 38 L capacity while larger SUVs and utes near the 82 L mark.

Now that fuel prices at the pump have surged past $2 per litre, we can get a rough idea of how expensive it is to refuel different types of cars.

Average fuel costs for different classes of vehicle at $2 per litre*

Car type
City carSmall sedanSUVMPVUte
Average tank size38 L49 L69 L75 L82 L
Refuel cost$75$98$136$150$164
Average capacity (L/100 KM)
Max kms before refuel745.10790.32894.74735.29953.49
Average cost per day$3.10$3.77$4.62$6.20$5.23
Average cost per year$1,132.16$1,376.36$1,687.15$2,264.33$1,909.14

*Assuming average kms travelled of 11,100 km per year (30.41 km per day), based on ABS statistics. Average tank volumes and capacities estimated from BudgetDirect.

In March 2022, the ABS reported the cost of automotive fuel in Australia jumped 11% during the first part of the year, hence our dramatic price increases. But swinging CPIs affect everyone differently, as not everyone has the same money to spend on fuel, nor even the same car with the same mileage, as one can see in the table above.

So, on average, Australians could be spending anywhere between $1,130 – $2,260 per year on fuel at current $2 per litre prices, depending on their car’s capacity and fuel efficiency, as well as how much they drive.

Fuel rewards: what discounts are out there?

Now we know roughly how expensive Aussie cars are to keep fuelled, let’s dig deep into ways to save. Besides reducing mileage or upgrading to a fuel efficient car, the most obvious (and attainable) factor to change is finding the cheapest fuel price.

Many companies now offer fuel discounts as part of their membership perks, which is great news for creatures of shopping habit.

So what are the offers? Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

Woolworths: 4-8c off per litre. Woollies offers 4c off per litre at participating fuel outlets if you spend $30 or more at Woolworths or Woolworths metro stores (T&Cs apply). You can combine with an extra 4 c off (8 c per litre discount total) if you spend $5 or more in-store at said outlets.
Costco: 5-20c off per litre. If you become a Costco member ($60 per year for individual gold membership), you gain exclusive access to their competitively priced fuel stations. While fuel prices vary between locations, according to Fuel Price Australia they tend to run 5-20c cheaper than city and national averages. (Keep in mind Costco only offers specific fuel types, so they may not carry the kind you need for your vehicle).
7-Eleven: 1-30c or more per litre. Currently, 7-Eleven has adopted a rewards program where after six visits to their outlets (each with a purchase where you scan your rewards card), you could choose to ‘lock in’ the best fuel price you see on their app in your local area and refuel at said price for your 7th visit within seven days of activating the reward. This means your discount isn’t necessarily guaranteed, but if you happen to live near a low-priced pump, you could shave off cents big time. Conditions apply.
Several car insurance providers also offer standardised fuel discounts if you take out an eligible policy with them:

NRMA Members: 3-5c off per litre. Only at participating Ampol and Caltex stations.
RACQ Members: 4c off per litre. Only at Puma Energy petrol stations.
RAA Members: 4c off per litre. Only with EG and Caltex Woolworths.
RACWA Members: 4c off per litre. Only at Puma Energy and Better Choice stations.
Keep in mind these discounts will often place fuel caps on their usage, varying between a maximum discounted 120-150 litres per refuel. Always read the terms and conditions or the PDS before signing up for a policy or rewards program.

RELATED: 10 easy ways to handle the rising cost of living

How much could a 4 cents per litre discount save you?

Membership fuel discounts these days seem to fall around 4 cents per litre. If we use the average vehicle statistics and comparison costs from the first table, let’s see how much a price-cut of 4 cents could theoretically save you.

Fuel cost savings for average vehicles at $1.96 per litre*

Car typeCity carSmall sedanSUVMPVUte
Savings per refuel$1.52$1.96$2.72$3.00$3.28
Savings per year$22.64$27.53$33.74$45.29$38.18

It doesn’t seem to save a lot, but it could still be an extra $20-45 you don’t have to pay. These savings will still ultimately have to stack up against any costs sunk into becoming eligible for them, however (such as membership fees or grocery bills).

But what happens if you opt for the biggest savings possible? Let’s say you grab a rewards discount in the most ideal conditions: 20 cents off every time you refuel. How does this change the numbers?

Fuel cost savings for average vehicles at $1.80 per litre*

Car typeCity carSmall sedanSUVMPVUte
Savings per refuel$2.79$3.39$4.16$5.58$4.71
Savings per year$113.22$137.64$168.71$226.43$190.91

Those cents quickly add up over time, but the key point is that you will need to be consistent over long periods of time to see accumulated savings in fuel costs.

Mozo’s verdict? Fuel discounts could save you – but it will depend on the discount…and you

Ultimately any discount could technically save you money – and outrageous fuel prices are something worth saving on. However, it will depend on your circumstances whether these savings are ultimately worth it.

If you drive a lot, bundling a service you already have or need with maximum rewards could save you worthwhile money – or perhaps the added discount will just edge today’s fuel prices within your allowance.

But if the cost of membership sinks more money in than you get back, member fuel discounts probably won’t serve your money saving goals. Either way is valid – so embrace what makes sense for you!

Start by creating a personalised budget to see where extra dollars could be put to good use.

Extracted in full form: Membership fuel discounts worth it? Woolworths, Costco, 7-Eleven, and more rewards examined | Mozo