How much cash are you ‘wasting’ at the bowser?

It’s been pretty painful for grey nomads watching prices at the bowser sky-rocket in recent weeks. When it comes to budgeting for taking the Big Lap around Aus­tralia, fuel is the one cost that generally stands head and shoulders above all others for grey nomads, and there’s not much you can do about it  … or can you?.

While you can have some control over the amount you spend on food and drink and on camping fees, the conven­tional wisdom is that there is simply no escaping the need to keep topping up the tank. Most grey nomads simply grit their teeth and resign themselves to the fact that it is going to cost ‘X’ amount to cover ‘X’ amount of kilometres.

However, a driving experiment a  few years ago revealed how dra­matically behaviour behind the wheel can affect fuel consump­tion levels, and how changing it can save long-term travellers thousands of dollars.

Fuel prices

As part of a challenge set by Caltex, Helen and John Taylor took their Volkswagen Passat on a 38-day, 18,830-kilo­metre odyssey around Australia … and the fuel efficiency they achieved stunned the experts.

Travelling in cities, as well as regional and Outback areas, the couple used 25.5% less fuel per 100km than estimated by Volk­swagen. Instead of using the predicted 19.5 tanks of petrol, the Taylors used less than 14.5 tanks. That equates to an extra 331 kilometres extra per tank.

“In 38 days we saved more than five tanks of petrol – imagine what you could do over 12 months!” said Mr Taylor. “The best part though was proving the benefits of combining fuel efficient driving techniques – like accelerating gently, ensur­ing tyres are properly inflated and avoiding idling – with regular servicing and the use of Caltex Vortex 98.”

It’s food for thought for the thousands of grey nomads who have to watch their budget carefully.

“Those statistics made me sit up and take notice,” said grey nomad Roscoe D. “I’m certainly going to see if I can change my ways and get a few more kilo­metres per dollar in the tank.”


  • Drive smoothly – aggres­sive driving can use as much as a third more fuel than safe driving. Avoid accelerating or braking too hard.
  • Use higher gears – the higher your gear, the lower your en­gine speed.
  • Tune and service your engine.
  • Watch your tyre pressure – a tyre under-inflated by just 1psi can reduce fuel efficiency by 3%.
  • Travel light – for every extra 45kg you carry, your fuel ef­ficiency can drop by 1-2%.
  • Avoid excess idling.
  • Plan trips carefully – cutting down on the time spent in the car is the best way to conserve fuel.
  • Avoid high speeds – the faster you go, the more wind resist­ance you’ll encounter.
  • Use air conditioning spar­ingly – A/C puts added strain on the engine and uses fuel.


  • How are you seeking to keep fuel costs down at the moment? Email us here to share your tips.

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