December 7, 2010

Don't worry, it's only fuel

A thought in mid March, three months later: With regular petrol now around $2.15 a litre, this posting looks kind-of quaint. Oh for $1.99 petrol again!

Note: eight days after posting this item, diesel and petrol went up another three cents a litre.

As this was written, fuel prices were at their highest for two years and the AA was darkly warning that worse is to come. Apparently it's due to that a weakening dollar and the stockpiling of fuel for the European winter. The oil companies always have reasons that are almost impossible for most of us to dispute.

Apart from their effect on the household budget, our new improved fuel prices have a side effect on some of favorite 4WD activities, like adding a premium to participating in such safaris as the forthcoming Motu and Kauri Coast events. But is the premium as bad as it first seems as the running tally on the pump tops $100 and shows no sign of stopping? You might be surprised.

In 2008 when the last Motu and Kauri Coast were run, 91 octane cost about $1.33 a litre and diesel, $1.04. As this was written, many service stations in Auckland were charging $1.929 for 91 and $1.289 for diesel, although one hopeful major vendor was holding out for $1.329. These prices will be typical for most of the country.

The Motu School, where the safari starts, is about 420km from Auckland and nearly 600km from Wellington. Burning 11 litres per 100km, a typical diesel 4WD would use about 77 litres getting there and back from Auckland, or about $80 worth in 2008. The same trip would cost almost $100 at today's prices. Coming from Wellington would have cost about $113 two years ago and $140 now. A typical petrol 4WD wagon that might burn 15 litres per 100km on a run would have used about $75 worth of 91 for the Auckland-Motu return in 08 and would now be edging $110.

My experience with earlier Motus is that a vehicle will probably go through the best part of a tank during the trip itself. Let's assume a 70 litre tank. That's about $73 for diesel back in 08, and $90 now. A petrol tankful costing $93 back then will cost $135 now.

Of course, RUCs have to be factored into these calculations, bringing the diesel cost much closer to the petrol figures. (For overseas visitors, petrol is taxed at the pump, diesel is taxed by separate Road User Charges that have to be bought in advance in blocks of 1000km. Here's a link to the official site.)

The experts tell us that fuel is the cheapest part of motoring and, indeed, the extra cost of getting to the starting line is still only loose change compared to the cost of safari entry fees, extra accommodation, food not included in the package, wear and tear on the vehicles, and so on.

1 comment: