Thursday, 28 February 2013

Finance: Would More Expensive Petrol Change Your Driving Habits?

This news article caused me to stop and think this week:
It is a hard sell, but economists from the Australian National University say Australians would be better off with a higher tax on petrol.
They have compared petrol prices around the world and say if consumers had to pay more at the pump here we would use less fuel and buy more efficient cars.
I've often thought, while reading personal finance blogs or news articles from America, you think your petrol is expensive? We pay way more! But apparently, we're not paying enough for people to switch to fuel efficient cars and drive less.

Australia (and particularly Perth) is extremely car dependent. Thing is, the excessive drivers of the world already have significant disincentives to drive. Getting stuck in traffic for hours, paying for petrol, paying for parking - which is $20 a day and up in the Perth central business district - and yet they still drive. I believe that petrol could cost $5 a litre and some people would still drive.

And the people who don't drive excessively? I'm not sure we're in it for the savings. Personally, I don't enjoy driving as much as I enjoy walking or taking public transport. There are times when I am happy that I can drive and own a car - it was particularly hard to get home from parties at night before I drove. But I didn't get my license until I was almost 23, and I coped just fine. I worked and studied, I lived out of home (alone!) and I didn't need a car.

These days, I live within a few kilometres of the city so I catch free central area transit buses, pay a very small amount to catch buses and trains further out into the 'burbs, and I walk a lot. I even walk home from work on a regular basis.

My point? I bought the smallest, most fuel efficient car I could find. But I bought a tiny car because it's a reliable brand, it's easy to park smaller cars, and I didn't see the point of a bigger car. Not because it was cheaper to run. And my household uses so little petrol that I sometimes forget that cars even need petrol. That's not a joke, though I am blonde so you can blame it on that if you like. To me, walking and taking public transport is just a part of who I am. I do it because it's convenient, it's less stressful than driving, I get more exercise by walking, it's good for the environment... But never once have I based my transportation decisions on saving money.

And that's why I think the people paying $20 a day to park next to the train station in the city centre won't change their ways.


  1. I would love to take public transportation, but it's horrible where I live, as in the three-mile drive to work would probably take me an hour. When gas prices are high, I try not to take excessive trips and I always group my errands together.
    I had to look up how much a liter was to a gallon, only .25! a gallon of gas here is about $3.50 right now.

    1. Yep, we regularly pay $1.50 a litre... So that's $6 a gallon.

      I can't believe the bus would take an hour to go three miles! That's ridiculous. Public transport here isn't that bad, thankfully. I think you've said before that you ride your bike to and from work a bit, so that must help with fuel costs!