Before the summer holidays set in, drivers can expect to pay a price premium at the bowser. Here’s how to avoid overspending.

Motorists across Australia can expect an unwelcome early Christmas present this year, with petrol price hikes on the way according to consumer experts.

While average prices for Unleaded 91 are currently low across the five major cities, Compare the Market’s Chris Ford warns that price hikes are on the way.

“Fuel prices fluctuate in regular cycles across our cities, and unfortunately it looks like we are due for another at one of the most expensive times of the year,” Mr Ford says.

“The average price for Unleaded 91 is around 23 cents more a litre now than it was the same time last year, which is an extra $11.50 when filling up a 50-litre tank. When we factor in even higher prices once the fuel cycles kick into gear, drivers will be paying even more,” Mr Ford says.

Making matters worse is the fact the national retail average for Unleaded 91 is up 13 per cent compared to the same time last year.

But just how will the cycles play out across the country? Sydney is likely to be one of the first cities to see their prices rise over the next week or so. In Melbourne, the price hikes usually kick into gear a week after Sydney.

“The bad news is the new peak price isn’t far away and is likely to exceed $2.19 a litre,” Mr Ford says.

Prices are volatile in Adelaide, with prices reaching highs of $2.24 a litre in some locations in the latest fuel pricing cycle.

And in Brisbane, fuel prices are slowly falling and are expected to be their lowest in the next week. “What that means is the prices may rise dramatically just ahead of Christmas,” Mr Ford says.

Unlike other cities, Perth operates on a weekly pricing cycle. The city should see the regular cycle of between $2.05 and $2.17 continue over the festive period.

How to get cheaper petrol

The experts agree that it’s best to fill up in the lead-up to Christmas as early as you can, with a Wednesday traditionally recognised as the cheapest day in the week to fill up.

That’s according to historical pricing data compiled by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which explains that the bigger petrol stations that are part of a chain are usually the first to mark up their prices since they suffer the biggest losses from marking down their costs.

If you’re embarking on a family road trip, try to fill up in the city and surrounds, as petrol is often more expensive in regional areas – and prices are often slower to fall than in capital cities.

It also pays to track down deals on fuel wherever you can, Mr Ford urges.

“Check what discounts or deals are available through grocery stores, roadside assistance programs and even your energy retailer. A few cents off a litre may not seem like a big deal, but the savings really do add up over the year,” Mr Ford explains.

“Check your shopping receipts, redeem coupons available through rewards programs, or see if you can lock in low fuel prices through other apps.”

The best cheap petrol apps to try

There’s the My 7-Eleven app, which includes a fuel price lock feature to save at the bowser. Savings from the feature and savings available on staples in store can make a meaningful difference to budgets.

The app works by searching for the best price at the five closest 7-Eleven stores, and then locks that price in to use at any 7-Eleven fuel store for the next seven days. The retailer reveals that it can help people save between 14 and 16 cents per litre, which equates to around $5.00 to $6.50 per fill.

“Some customers may be able to save a few cents a litre by using the fuel price lock to access the best local price when they’re ready to fill up. Other people have saved a lot more over the course of a year by locking in their price at the lower points in the fuel cycle and redeeming their price lock when fuel is more expensive,” explains 7-Eleven’s Julie Laycock.

There’s also the Compare the Market Simples Fuel App, which allows you to compare fuel prices in your area.

If you’re in Victoria, check out the RACV Arevo app, which includes a fuel finder feature to help users save money at the bowser by providing regularly updated fuel prices from Victorian retailers.

The free app includes an interactive map that allows users to browse and compare prices at petrol stations.

In Queensland, there’s the RACQ Fair Fuel Finder, which will help you find the best value for money and also rewards the fuel stations charging less.

In NSW, the NRMA membership also includes a fuel discount at Ampol service stations, which is five cents a litre on premium fuel and three cents a litre on regular fuel at participating stations. These are indicated by a red pin on the map within the My NRMA app.

In Tasmania, there’s the fuel check website, which monitors prices and is updated regularly.

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