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Where You Don’t Want To Fill The Tank

So there you are, stopping off at the petrol station to top up the tank of your good old family Toyota . Like most people, you’ll roll your eyes at the amount that whizzes up on the bowser and remember back in the Good Old Days (I must be getting near middle age if I’m starting to use that phrase) when filling up the tank didn’t cost nearly as much as half a week’s groceries… which is only a slight exaggeration.

And it’s certainly a fact that Australia is a pricey part of the world to buy petrol in, especially premium petrol. In the OECD countries, it’s in the top ten most expensive places to fill the tank with premium. At the end of the December 2012 quarter, the countries in the world where you don’t want to fill up were:

  • Spain
  • The Netherlands (no wonder bikes are so popular over there)
  • Hungary
  • Luxembourg
  • Slovak Republic
  • Australia
  • Sweden
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Canada

(This list doesn’t take taxes and levies into account – these vary from country to country and make true comparisons a bit harder. It just looks at the actual stuff your car burns.)

What about regular or non-premium? Things look a little bit different for Australia here, thankfully. In fact, we’re the country with the third biggest gap between the price of regular and premium, with Canada and Mexico having bigger gaps (the smallest gaps between premium and regular are in Germany and New Zealand). A lot of countries don’t have regular petrol, either, and are stuck with premium – and this includes the poor old Spanish and Dutch.  The worst places for regular petrol are:

  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Czech Republic
  • Austria
  • New Zealand

There’s always diesel, of course.  Again considering the plain price of the fuel rather than anything with any taxes or levies shoved onto it, Australia comes out very well indeed. Here’s where you can get the fourth cheapest diesel prices in the OECD – only beaten by New Zealand, the USA and Mexico. The places where diesel was priciest were:

  • TurkeyDieselFuel_195121818
  • Norway
  • The UK
  • Italy
  • Sweden
  • Ireland
  • Finland
  • Hungary
  • Germany
  • Denmark

You might ask where the cheapest places are in the OECD are. Well, the graphs I found with these fascinating figures only had room for 24 countries so they went for the most expensive 24 in each category. However, the following seem to be good places to fill your tank:

Premium petrol: USA, UK, Austria

Regular petrol: Mexico, USA, Canada

Diesel: Mexico, USA, New Zealand (although the Kiwis clap a whopping big tax on diesel).

The moral here seems to be that driving the way they do in American movies is a really bad idea.

And spare a wee thought for our trans-Tasman rivals. At one point this year, their government was considering increasing the per-litre tax clapped on petrol on the grounds that the public had changed their fuel consumption habits (buying cars with smaller engines like Suzuki Swifts or looking out for hybrid vehicles like the Nissan LEAF, etc.) and The Powers That Be weren’t getting enough revenue from petrol tax as a result.  Not sure if this bit of lunacy went through or not in the end – lobby groups didn’t half kick up a stink – but here’s hoping that our government won’t get funny ideas as well.


  1. Kenneth Smith says:

    Generally since motorists cannot buy their motor vehicle fuel free of tax, to compare international pricing free of levies excise duty and taxes is totally irrelevant.

    The only fair comparison is to rank countries on average retail prices inclusive of fees , excise duty and taxes converted to a reserve currency such as the US dollar.

    In all the countries I have lived in and driven in, Australia is the only country where prices fluctuate by the day of the week in accordance with the vagaries of oil company marketing.

    The belated examination of supermarket discount coupons is well overdue, I cannot understand why the Competition Commission ever allowed the situation to arise. The Coles and Woolworths Groups have dominance in groceries, and food in general, between them with their subsidaries and they account for well over 50% of Australian retail spending, they should never have been permitted to add motor vehicle fuel to their businesses which constitute a dominant uncompetitive duopoly controlling far too much of Australia’s retail market to the detriment of consumers and producers.

    August 28th, 2013 at 4:23 pm

  2. Grant says:

    Without adding in the taxes, levies etc, ie comparing the actual price at the pump, this comparison is useless. What matters is how much you will pay at the pump in each country.

    August 28th, 2013 at 4:24 pm

  3. Marcus says:

    The facts given here are totally wrong and poorly researched. Premium in Germany is EUR 1.55 approx. AUD 2.2 Regular had terminated in Germany two years ago. Diesel in Germany is 15% less. In AU it’s more or less equal to petrol. Unbelievable.

    August 28th, 2013 at 4:28 pm

  4. Graham says:

    Diesel here is not more or less equal to petrol, it’s vastly more expensive given the production costs of the products. I can only assume that the oil companies are already pricing diesel on the basis that it is generally a more economical fuel mileage-wise than petrol and are thus clobbering the diesel motorists for their extra miles per gallon. Greed all the way to the pump and we just sit back and take it. How about a fuel buying strike? Or, even better, electric cars and bicycles.

    August 28th, 2013 at 4:59 pm

  5. Norm says:

    I saved and saved to buy a Prius. Yes they are expensive, but with 200,000+ on the speedometer it has not had a spanner on it. Petrol wise, I used to call into the Petrol Station once a week. Now it is once a fortnight.

    August 28th, 2013 at 5:23 pm

  6. Peter says:

    I recently returned from a UK/Irish holiday and cannot believe that the UK doesn’t make the cut on expensive petrol countries – it is about the same per litre in euros as australian dollars – which. after currency conversion makes it much dearer there than here!

    August 29th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

  7. laurie says:

    with fuel prices and the state of the roads west vic who pay more taxes and higher price for petrol than city , 22 cents at times per litre , we are being screwed , right royally.
    we have extremely bad and dangerous road surfaces not being even patched up . the trucking as well chews up the surface even worse as you can one side of the road rutted and breaking up as loaded truck go to town and then the other side is not nearly as bad as they return unloaded . we need a better deal for country dwellers as everything costs more than city and we have further to go using more fuel and then have to pay 22cents more per litre So the “Minister of Patches and Potholes ” should give us a refund or fix the roads and pay for damages to tires wheels and alignments .

    August 29th, 2013 at 3:37 pm

  8. Dr David Arelette says:

    The opportunity for an innovation like supermarket dockets was obvious when I was an expatriate with Shell in London in 1986 and 60% of our product in France was sold from Carrefour grocery outlets. The reality is those now retail outlets complaining about the supermarkets and shopper dockets failed to reinvest in their business model and innovate for the last 30 years and now winge rather than even now innovating and get relevant to the gasoline buyer’s needs. The only real variable factor in large distribution is Scale – as this is the driver of efficiency and thus cost – so the entrepreneurial text book would tell the wingers to find a disconnect in meeting buyer’s needs and bring scale to these elements. It comes back to J P Morgan – if you have to ask the price, you cannot afford it – too many people own and operate a car when do do not have the available wealth to do so and join the ranks of the wingers. As I learnt in the first week of my Economics PhD, “capitalism is not a charitable instutution”.

    August 30th, 2013 at 11:11 am

  9. John says:

    If the government where not so greedy with taxes on fuel we could once again enjoy our sunday drives.
    The price of diesel should be less than petrol as I am told it is unrefined also the government could reduce the prices by at least 70 cents a litre that’s how much there making on tax on both fuels and gas should be 20 cents a litre.
    So Abbott or Rudd should look at that they would win a lot of votes if they reduce the cost of fuel

    August 30th, 2013 at 11:11 am