CHOICE membership

Petrol prices


I know this will be controversial to some people.
I think when you consider the energy density of a litre of gasoline or diesel and what it allows you to achieve in a vehicle and how it powers our personal and professional modern lives, you can then appreciate what an absolute bargain buy gasoline/diesel really is. It is cheaper than most beverages whether they are alcoholic or not.

Most people happily pay $2 for 1/2 a litre of water in the service station convenience store and pay this and more for a product that is in abundance by simply turning on a tap or catching rain water and probably cost the supplier who bottled the water merely fractions of a cent.
Yet we moan about buying gasoline/diesel even though we are paying less for a product that is a finite resource that takes vast amounts of technology and labor to recover, refine, transport and store and distribute from the other side of the world in order to bring to the convenience of the local gas station.

We must remember before personal transport became widely available in the early 20th century the average person only travelled less than 10miles from their home in their whole lives, nowadays some people commute 10 times that distance and sometimes further daily, and think nothing of travelling 1000’s of KM’s for a couple of week getaway.

Liquid hydrocarbon fuels are an absolute bargain at tens times the price.


Quite so. Fuel prices in Oz are not high by world standards.

Nonetheless I am still peeved by the blatant manipulation of retail prices and the governments of all flavours that will do nothing about it.

When the subject of price control came up a few years ago an industry representative was interviewed on TV. When asked about the cyclical massaging of prices he deflected by saying that if prices were controlled the customers would be worse off because they would not benefit from buying when prices were down.

The foolish journalist failed to bring up the obvious that we would also fail to be ripped off when prices were high and that the whole point of this price manipulation is to maximise profits which means to extract as much money as possible from the customer for given volume of product over time. The PR droid got away with his waffle and the industry as a whole gets away with manipulating us over a product that is arguably a necessity - at least for now. Bring on efficient electric vehicles and a network of recharging points to service them.


33 posts were split to a new topic: Electric and Alternative Vehicle Fuels


Recently I have noticed several Coles Branded Petrol Stations around my area selling ULP at about 4c a litre dearer than any other business. Of course when you take the Coles 4c a litre discount docket off the price it becomes the same price as everyone eles. What discount are you really getting, why the extra markup (cynicism says it is so they don’t really pay the 4c discount).

Has anyone else noticed this practice?

I will take some pictures next time to post here.


Coles Shells have been doing that for many months around Melbourne. I stopped patronising them. Woolies Caltex is almost always $0.04/l lower than the Shell on any given day in any given ‘local marketing area’, and BP is often $0.01-0.02 less than the Caltex! That is before the hidden markup for 98 where BP and Caltex remain in the $0.16-0.18 range and Shell is $0.019-0.20 over 91. (They do not need to show ‘everything behind the curtains’ on their main signage in Vic yet).

Still I see motorists stopping at Shell.


I’ve noticed my own anecdotes of Coles Express stations being consistently more expensive than surrounding stations. I rarely fill up there


None of us likes paying more than we think is a reasonable price for anything - but Economics 101 says the right price is the price the free market will bear. As much as I disagree with many aspects of our capitalist system, I don’t see why everyone whinges about petrol as if it were different in some way from other goods, at least where there is reasonable competition, that is, in cities.

The ACCC’s role is to ensure there is no collusion between different petrol companies (wholesale and retail), which would upset the market ideal.

The other problem is the tyranny of distance and Australia’s extremely low population densities in rural areas, which make retail viability difficult and competition impossible. In this instance, a previous commentator’s (@johnkerr) report on a regulated maximum price for petrol above city prices seems like a fair imposition to me.


I’m not sure when the last time was that I bought fuel based on pump price - it’s almost always on convenience - but it seems Woolies/Caltex is usually ‘competitive’ - prices here don’t change much, in town diesel goes for $1.50+ and premium unleaded for 1.65+ … 98 for 1.70+ - prices 20-30 cents per litre higher are common the further you get out of town - so when I travel to the big smoke I never shop on price - it’s ‘all cheap’ :wink:

One thing about Coles Express - I personally avoid the local one like the plague. With all the stuff they sell, I find especially in the mornings that the majority of pumps are taken up by people who are using them simply for parking, not buying fuel of any kind - with no exaggeration. Waiting for a pump is one thing … waiting behind another car who stops at the pump and simply goes into the shop for his latte and the morning paper is infuriating.


I’m discussing this with our Campaigns and Policy head, but we’re not all that hopeful…


I’ve seen that happening for years around the southern parts of Sydney ( not just Coles, but any of the servos offering shopper docket discounts )


In the big smoke it is common to have multiple competing servos within 1 minute of each other. Convenience is equal so I vote for the better price although my car seems to prefer BP, and BP is locally competitive.

Overall CO2 emissions comparing electric cars with petrol cars

Something we have noticed in Brisbane is that Coles fuel outlets are generally more expensive by 4-6 cents/litre than other service stations/independent outlets. I recall reading something that Coles may be increasing browser prices cover the cost of the $0.04/litre discount…knowing that through customer loyalty they will most likely have regular customer who only shop at Coles and therefore potentially go to their fuel outlets to recoup the $0.04 discount.

My own parents shop at Coles and complain regularly that Coles fuel outlets are more expensive than others.

Anecdotally, only time Coles seems to be cheaper is on the upward price cycle when they may take a day or two later than others to increase their prices (overnight) to the top of the price cycle.


Why does your car prefer BP fuel? That’s interesting


It is a 1.6T with direct injection requiring 98. No idea, but over a few years it always gets consistently and measurably better fuel economy with BP. I have had other cars over the years that seemed to have a preference for one or other brand, and some that had no preference.

The only possibility would be the additive package (specific mix of detergents, etc) since it all starts from the same tanks in the same terminals. The vendor specific additive mix is put in when the tankers are being filled.


Going back to the question of price collusion, I have no doubt whatever that it operates here in Canberra. Almost all Canberra’s service stations are Coles- or Woolworths-linked (Shell and Caltex respectively) and their prices are always identical. (They’ve been 149.9 cents/litre for months.)

Motorists are “represented” here by the NRMA, but the NRMA’s price surveillance stops short at the NSW border…

There are a (very) few independent petrol outlets like United and 7/11. United’s prices are lower, but unfortunately they’re on the north side of the city and I’m on the south, so it’s usually not worth my while to buy from them.

What it sums up to is that Coles and Woolworths have a stranglehold on the ACT’s motoring public, act in collusion to set their fuel prices, and charge just to the point where they reckon they won’t spark an ACCC enquiry.

Resale price maintenance is alive and well in the ACT.


There was a TV Current Affairs program that looked specifically at the Canberra issue a couple of nights ago and how it was cheaper to leave and fill up at Queanbeyan.


I’m sorry I missed that. But it sounds as though its findings supported my view. I certainly take the opportunity to fill up outside Canberra if I’m heading interstate, but making a special trip to do so, and then just going home again, doesn’t work for me, as any savings are spent on the extra travel. (I’m sure this is what Coles and Woolworths rely on, of course.)


“the tyranny of distance”: this may well apply if you’re living in the back of Bourke - but 100kms from Sydney (refer to my original posing)? No, I disagree.


I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with. It seems from your original post that there is a competitive market around where you live, so what’s the problem? Just go to the cheapest.

Someone back of Bourke, i.e. subjected to the tyranny of distance, would certainly not have the benefit of a competitive market.


A link to an article about it. I will continue to look for the program it was on.