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Pump and circumstance: city drivers give up on cheap fuel days—except in Perth

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), Jan 2009 – Dec 2012
Base: Gave a day of the week when ‘usually go to a service station’ - Average annual n = 13,607

In 2009 it was Tuesday. In 2010, Wednesday. Now, the cheapest day to fill up the car in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Adelaide is...  anyone’s guess.

The duration of the petrol price cycle—from cheapest day to cheapest day—in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide has expanded from a consistent seven days in 2009 to around 10-14 days as of September 2012, according to the ACCC’s latest report into petrol pricing. 

Roy Morgan Research shows that drivers in eastern cities have quickly adjusted to the unpredictable cycle—by abandoning buying fuel on a particular day. In 2009, when the price low point was weekly (and therefore easy to track), more than 1 in 2 drivers (54%) in these cities usually bought petrol on a particular day, with the vast majority (46%) refuelling on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

By 2012, the proportion refuelling on a particular day had almost halved to 29%. Now only around 1 in 7 drivers (15%) in these cities say they usually fill up on a Tuesday or Wednesday.  

Day of the week visited Service Station to buy fuel

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), Jan 2009 – Dec 2012. Base: Gave a day of the week when ‘usually go to a service station’ - Average annual n = 13,607 

However in Perth the trend is reversed. Over the past four years the price cycle has become weekly, and each Wednesday currently marks the low point. 40% of Perth drivers now usually buy their fuel on a Tuesday or Wednesday (up from 15% in 2009), although just over half (51%) still say they have no particular day.

Outside the major cities, the fuel price cycle is less significant, and prices are higher but more stable: 74% of country drivers have no particular fill-up day, up only 9% points from 2009. 

Norman Morris, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“No one wants to pay more today for what they could have bought for less yesterday. It is notable how quickly and intuitively drivers responded to changes in the petrol price cycle, especially between 2010 and 2011.

“Although in the eastern capital cities, including Adelaide, 29% of drivers still refuel on a particular day, much of this would have to be due to habit rather than genuine price-consciousness. The remaining 71% have clearly cottoned on to the end of the regular seven-day cycle and now no longer go to the pump on any particular day. 

“Meanwhile in the west over the last couple of years, fuel consumers have enjoyed a weekly price cycle. The proportion of Perth’s drivers making the most of Wednesday lows has more than quadrupled since 2009 from 7% to 29%, with another 11% usually refuelling on Tuesdays. 

“Although still under investigation by the ACCC, fuel discount shopper dockets continue to be used by many price-conscious consumers trying to minimise expenditure, especially in the absence of consistent, easy-to-remember pricing cycles.”   

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For comments or more information please contact:

Norman Morris

Industry Communications Director

Telephone: (03) 9224  5172

Mobile: 0422 014 474

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About Roy Morgan Research

Roy Morgan Research is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices in each state of Australia, as well as in New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan Research has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

In Australia, Roy Morgan Research is considered to be the authoritative source of information on financial behaviour, readership, voting intentions and consumer confidence. Roy Morgan Research is a specialist in recontact customised surveys which provide invaluable and effective qualitative and quantitative information regarding customers and target markets.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%