Frugal Foo

Foo Thinking Money"Money can't buy me love"... But everything else is in this blog.

Car Tyre Ratings Sneaky Up-sell

Understand how to read your car tyre load and speed ratings so that you buy the correct tyre you need rather than an expensive tyre you don't.

New tyres were fitted to my car last week at the local tyre shop and do you know what's strange?  It seems I've had an upgrade to a higher performance specification of the tyres and I can't even remember asking for one.

Now I'm not saying they are bad tyres.  No doubt I got what I paid for.  The point is I didn't ask for a faster or greater load bearing tyre than what was fitted as original equipment when the car rolled off the showroom floor.  I was unknowingly upgraded to a tyre with greater load bearing and faster speed ratings because I didn't bother to look at my car tyre placard and understand what I actually need to buy for my car.

Previously in this blog I've written about the money wasted when we fill up with premium fuel that has higher octane than we need.  Fuel prices are constantly on our minds since we fill up regularly.  It's easy to forget the couple of dollars worth of rubber that is worn off the circumference of our tyres every time we commute to work and back.  Eventually it catches up and we head down to the tyre shop.  We are potentially buying more tyre than we really need unless we take a few simple steps to understand the exact requirement for our particular car.  And just like unleaded fuel, our vehicle manufacturer has already specified the correct tyre for our car to make our shopping around much easier.

How to read your Tyre Placard
A little knowledge upfront will improve your chances of making an informed choice of best fit for YOU and your budget.  The manufacturers of modern passenger cars specify the correct tyre to be fitted to the car on the tyre placard located in the glove-box or on the driver door pillar or under the bonnet of the car.  The tyre code listed on this placard, specifies the size, and the load-bearing and speed requirements of the tyre for the car.

The tyre code which I have circled in red specifies the size, load and speed requirements for the tyres on my car.  The load and speed symbol is underlined.

When replacing worn tyres on a passenger car, the most simple approach is a like-for-like replacement so that you can legally resume driving as before.  Let's assume you're happy with the size and profile of the original tyres and unless you want to mess about with the engineering of the vehicle, you'll have little choice but to replace each tyre with another one of the same size.  However when it comes to the load and speed ratings of the tyre product, there is room for an upgrade, and the tyre shop will happily sell you their preferred brand of high performance tyres which may exceed your placarded requirements.

Tyre Size
The first part of the tyre code 195/55R15 is specifying the size.  It matches the code imprinted on the sidewall of all four tyres.  That code means that the tyre should be 195mm wide, have a height profile which is 55% of the width and be a Radial tyre for a 15 inch rim.  You are unlikely to want to deviate from this size specification during routine replacement of worn tyres.  You can see below that the tyre size is the same for my front and rear tyres as you would expect.

Load and Speed
You may have noticed that the load and speed rating in the placard of 84V matches only one of the tyres in the above photos.  A load rating of 84 means 500kg per tyre, and a speed code of V means 240km/h.  But my new front tyres have a load rating of 85 which means 515kg per tyre.  The tables I have used to determine the index are here

My new tyres have a load bearing capacity exceeding my tyre placard.  There may well have been a good reason for this and one small upgrade may not seem like much to worry about.  Now I run a mixed set of tyres, which I expect is safe, but when it comes time to replace my worn front tyres, there will be justification to fit tyres with a load rating of 85 to match the existing pair.  And so the cycle continues.  I have also seen this done with speed ratings, gradually edging up to higher performing tyres over time.

If you rotate your tyres at regular intervals aiming for uniform wear across all four, then you may replace all tyres at one time.  You then have the opportunity to fit four tyres which are exactly the same and can choose to return to original equipment level of performance if that is what you desire and it better suits your budget.

Your Tyre Short List
Armed with the tyre code from your tyre placard, you can visit the websites of your favourite brands of tyre, punch in the code, and examine the options available to you.  Alternatively you can usually enter your car make and model to find the recommended tyre.  My suggestion is to search for tyres both ways because I sometimes found slightly different options listed when I searched with the tyre code, compared with searching based on car make and model.

Price comparison is often not available on the tyre brand websites since what you are after is the fully fitted price.  I found the Tyre Right website to be very useful for this.  Vince Sorrenti provides hilarious running commentary as you step through the process of finding the right tyre.  I found myself messing about entering all sorts of car models just to hear what wisecrack Vince had to say about that car.

Once you understand the tyre codes and have a short list of tyres you like with some idea of prices, you're in a much stronger position at the counter of your local tyre shop to question any recommendations made and steer the deal a little more in your favour.  You might still go for the higher performing tyre but it will be a choice you make rather than a sneaky up-sell.

Related Posts
Premium Unleaded vs Unleaded
E10 vs Unleaded

Read more »


Rest Easy in the Right Bed

If you added up just how many precious hours are spent laying idle in bed during your short time on this planet, you'd probably need to go take a lie down.  This guest post from Any Fowler highlights the importance of finding the right bed.  Spotting the difference between a cheap bed and an inexpensive but good quality bed, will have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep over its many years of regular usage.  Over to you Amy...

Buying a bed can be a bewildering experience. There are so many different types of frame, and so many different mattress designs that it’s difficult to know what a good buy is and what is a gimmick. Even in the world of budget beds, the array of choice available at a mattress discounters is astounding to a first time buyer. So, what are all those different designs? Which ones are good value, and which are a waste of money?

Choose the mattress first

Well, for most people who are looking at budget beds, the priority should be to choose the mattress first. The mattress contributes considerably more to the sleep experience than the bed itself does, and you’ll be much happier in the long run if you get a good mattress on a simple frame, than if you buy a fancy four-poster bed and sling a cheap, poorly sprung mattress on it.

Most mattress discounters offer a selection of mattresses including foam, single coil, interlocking coil, air, and other mattresses. With mattresses, you really do get what you pay for, and it’s better to try to get a high quality mattress with individual pockets or coils than it is to get a cheaper one that will sag after just a few months of use.

Go for sturdy over pretty

When shopping for the bed itself, remember that most low-cost beds are discounted because they’re last year’s design, or they are simple designs with no frills. With that said, there are some mattress discounters that sell more attractive frames where you are sacrificing quality to get an attractive design at a lower price. If you’re choosing a bed that will get used a lot (as opposed to a bed in a guest room that will get used once or twice a year), then avoid ones with weak frames and springs that are likely to give over time. You have more leeway with guest room beds, but it’s still worth shopping with comfort rather than appearance in mind if you want to ensure your guests sleep soundly!

You can save a lot of money by choosing budget beds over ones at designer stores, but you should do some research before you hand over any money at a mattress discounters. Don’t be tempted to skimp too much. A brand name bed from a budget store is a great saving, but a bed that’s so cheap it’s bordering on “too good to be true” could well be a false economy.

Savvy shopping involves knowing when you’re getting a good deal, and when you’re in danger of being pennywise but pound foolish. However, as long as you know what you’re looking for, ask the right questions, and spend some time shopping around, you should get a great deal. Just remember that a typical bed lasts for around ten years. Don’t rush yourself when shopping – a day or two spent finding the perfect bed now will save you from a lot of hassle, and sleepless nights, over the next few years.

This article was written by Amy Fowler on behalf of The Original Factory Shop; stockists of budget beds, clothing and other household goods.
Read more »


Ride Sharing

4 empty seats
It seems wasteful that I drive myself and 4 empty seats across town each day.  In this post, guest writer Sean Gray explains the many benefits of Ride Sharing and demonstrates that it might even be possible to give up your car.  Sean knows only too well how much of our hard earned money is typically tied up in the cars we own, since his business offers cash for used vehicles.  It's money that I'm sure could be put to better use in our lives.  Foo.

Ride sharing is a great way to save money and the environment by living without a car. Wherever you go, there is a strong chance someone nearby will be able to help you get there, so riding with them and splitting the fuel money can save both of you money.

Aside from the cost of buying a car, fuel and insurance make cars expensive to keep. However, ride sharing allows you to split the cost of fuel with someone else only when you need a ride, and save all the other costs. If you typically drive a lot then the savings could be very significant.

Ride sharing is also a great way to save both time and the environment. Two people riding together who would otherwise drive separately cuts the emissions from the journey in half and helps reduce traffic congestion. There may also be benefits like a high occupancy vehicle lane which gives special priority to those who ride share.

Compensation for the driver should be agreed to before you start a program of ride sharing. As the passenger you should offer a few dollars for fuel, although how much will depend on the length of the trip and the cost of fuel. Some people may be willing to do it for just the additional time and the company.

Ride sharing is a great way to get to work. After all, you make the same journey everyday along with several other people. Ask around your office to find someone who lives near you. Talk to them about ride sharing and let them know you are prepared to cover some of the fuel. Commuting is often one of the biggest costs for car owners and having company on a long commute often makes it feel shorter!

It’s easier to ride share if you live in an area that is relatively well served by public transport then living without a car is great. You can use public transport when you need to get out, which is also generally cheaper than using a car. If you think you may still need a car occasionally then there are car sharing programs around from which you can rent a car for a couple of hours to run an errand.

Another popular type of ride sharing is called slugging. Slugging essentially is a way in which you can find rides. They're are certain areas where people go to pick up individuals to enjoy certain benefits, such as the carpool lane. Slugging is a new invention and it is only popular in a few states, although we should be seeing more of it in a short time.

Finding a place to ride share is easy. There are many ways an individual can go about doing this, the easiest being friends, and also the internet. If you talk to friends and none of them are going in the same direction as you, you should try online. Sites such as have a section for ride share, making hundreds of options available to you. All in all finding a person to carpool with is simple, and should be done more often.

Ride sharing is a great way to save money. Allowing you to sell your car and also live car free, reducing your expenses and still getting everywhere you need to be with the same flexibility through ride sharing.

Related Posts
Premium Unleaded vs Unleaded
E10 vs Unleaded
Read more »


Airport Transfers - Cheaper Alternatives to Taxis

Airport shuttle buses and public transport are alternatives to expensive taxis and are conveniently available in more places than you might think.

Planning the final leg of the journey from the airport to hotel is often left to the last minute or overlooked completely. But with airports popping up further and further away from town, and taxi fares on the rise, researching the airport transfer to your hotel is just as important as finding the cheapest airfare when planning your trip.

For example, if I fly from Sydney to Melbourne on a cheap airfare, the taxi fare from the airport to the hotel in the city almost doubles my door to door cost. The taxi driving style may well have been imported directly from down town Bangalore, but the $53 taxi fare is very much Australian.  That final 22 km from Melbourne airport to a hotel in the CBD by taxi will amount to approximately $2.40 per kilometer with tolls and other charges, compared with my cheap airfare cost which works out to be approximately 8c per kilometer to fly all the way from Sydney.

John Travolta may be on to something. He has a runway in his backyard and flies his own jet airliner. But for the rest of us planning the journey from the airport to the hotel is an important part of planning any trip involving air travel.

Here are some airport transfer options with useful links to consider when planning your trip.

Hotel Courtesy Bus. Hotel transfers are often (but not always) free and are usually the cheapest option. It’s common for hostels and some hotel chains to offer airport transfers, but you need to confirm this when planning your trip and make arrangements. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could click a check box when searching online for accommodation to find places offering a free airport shuttle service? Well have at least made it a little easier with their listing of Airport shuttle accommodation.

Public transport. In Australia, most major cities run a bus or a train to the airport.  Despite this relatively cheap and accessible option, travelers rarely consider this as a first option. For the lone traveler this is often the least expensive way to and from the airport.  The trade off is time.  Public buses and trains may be time consuming if relying on neighbourhood timetables and indirect routes. Also it’s important to check that the stop is easily accessible to either the domestic or international terminal which you will be using. Lifehacker’s Australian Airport Public Transport Guide covers all the airport public transport options for Australian capital cities.

Airport shuttle buses are more expensive than public transport but less expensive than a taxi if on your own. Airport shuttle buses will drop you off at a central location, or may offer to drop you at your accommodation for an additional charge which is often almost as expensive as a taxi. Find airport shuttles anywhere in Australia and compare prices at

Stay at a hotel at the airport and save time and money on the commute to the hotel. This only makes sense if you don’t intend visiting downtown on your trip. If arriving late at night, and you are planning to hire a car during your trip, it may be more cost effective to stay at an airport hotel on the night you arrive, and then hire the car from the airport the next morning, saving 1 day of car hire cost.

Hire your own car and drive yourself.  This is the most expensive option but worth considering if touring further.  Book in advance if planning to arrive at regional airports since the car hire desks are not continually staffed unless a booking has been made.  If your flight is delayed they should know automatically that you will be late to pick up your vehicle but it's best to keep in touch with the car hire company if anything changes, especially if your flight is canceled or something arises which places you on a different flight code.  You don't want to arrive only to find a closed desk, no keys and no cars.

Read more »


Debt Consolidation

When debt is out of control, consolidating all your debts into a single loan, may help manage your way back into the black. Today I have posted an interview with Marlon Powell of Debtcc to answer some questions about debt consolidation. Marlon shares his knowledge in various online forums and I am delighted to have the opportunity to pick his brain on this topic.

1) Foo: What are some of the early warning signs people should be aware of that may be falling into a debt trap?

Marlon: The first sign may be when you cannot make more than minimum monthly payments on your bills/debts and when you use one card to pay off the balance on another card. You also tend to forget the due dates of payments when you have multiple debts, which is another reason to incur late fees that in turn, may lead to debt problems.

2) Foo: In your experience in this field, what are some of the typical reasons people fall into the debt trap?

Marlon: I am sure many of you will support me if I say that one of the major reasons for falling into debt problems is excessive use of credit cards. Apart from this, many people also fall into debt after the festive season (Christmas and New Year), and if laid off or experience a medical emergency.

3) Foo: How does debt consolidation help repay debts?

Marlon: When people opt for debt consolidation, the major benefit they can enjoy is the opportunity to pay back multiple debts just by making single monthly payments. One can choose from consolidation program, balance transfer method or a secured/unsecured loan for the purpose of debt consolidation.

4) Foo: What types of debt can be consolidated?

Marlon: Most of the unsecured debts can be consolidated such as, credit card bills, medical bills, utility bills, store card bills, etc. However, you’ll not be able to consolidate your federal student loans with the help of a consolidation program; but you can always take out a consolidation loan to pay off your federal as well as private student loans.

5) Foo: Are there online tools available to help people better manage their own debt?

Marlon: Yes, there are a number of online tools such as, personal budgeting software, which you can use absolutely free of cost to manage your finances relatively better. You can also use specific debt calculators to work out necessary figures which in turn, can help you take out a suitable loan or plan your best repayment schedule. One is attached here -

6)Foo: What do I do if I think I need professional help with my debts?

Marlon: When you decide to get professional help, you can browse online to choose a suitable debt consolidation and/or settlement company, get online quotes and select one that you think will best suit your purpose. While doing so, it is advisable that you choose a reliable organization which has sufficient (at least 3 years) experience of providing services in the relevant field of expertise.

You might also be interested in this other article related to Management
How to Take Charge of Your Shopping Addiction
Read more »


Work Lunches

Enjoy cheap healthy work lunches everyday without wasting precious time in the kitchen. 

The cost of lunches at work adds up.  The money spent on the daily trip to the local cafe or food court over the course of a year could cost around $2400 assuming spending $10 per weekday for 48 weeks of the year.

Worse still, the kilos around your waste will also add up if you don't watch what you eat for lunch and where you buy it.

Sandwiches made at home before you leave in the morning, or last nights dinner left overs may not be the answer.  If you work in an office, your work colleges will not appreciate the fragrant aroma of last nights meatloaf as it is released from your lunch box at 12:30pm in the afternoon.

What's your time worth?  The time available the morning between waking from sleep and departing for work is so limited.  These are possibly the most precious minutes of the day.  There's so much to do in limited time.  To squeeze in another chore means setting the alarm clock earlier.  Being frugal is one thing, but I draw the line at loosing sleep over making sandwiches which by lunch time will be soggy, room temperature and almost ready to open the lunch box all by themselves and walk across the desk.  Our objective here is to save time and money, not trade one for the other.  Have a think about what your time is worth in the morning. 

How I cut the cost of work lunches in half and stayed healthy without spending extra time in the kitchen.

Set a budget for work lunches.  It must be affordable. I can't recommend a right or wrong amount to spend on lunch each day which suits everyone.  It will vary depending on how you value your time and how much you can afford.  As a general rule, I will not pay someone else to do something if it costs me more than what I could earn doing my job for the same amount of time.  For example, if I earn $20 per hour, then I'm not going to pay someone $10 for something which would only take me 15 minutes to prepare in my own kitchen at home.  However $5 to pay some else to make my lunch seems much better value for money and probably worthwhile, provided I can afford it.

If you like to snack during the day, avoid buying over-sized, expensive and unhealthy snacks at vending machines or shops around your work place.  Instead, buy snacks as part of your weekly grocery shop and have them on hand and ready grab in the morning to be taken to work.  If you like to bake, bake your own and pre-package them in daily portions ready to go.  Even having a single Tim Tam in your bag at work will answer the call for afternoon munchies so you won't be tempted to pull a Mars bar from that evil vending machine in the office kitchen.

Come lunch time, use your legs.  Seek out the best healthy food bargains in the local area.  This works best if working in a capital city.  If you can't find anything healthy which will match your budget, WALK FURTHER.  Use your lunch break to explore the neighborhood, enjoy the fresh air and get some cardio happening.  The health benefits of walking at least 30 mins a day are well documented.  Make your favourite lunch spot as far from the office as practical.

Make the most of company subsidized food if available at the company cafeteria.  But don't just assume it costs less than the local cafe.  Competition in the real world is much more fierce than for your average company cafeteria which has a captive market. Often the local places at street level will become price competitive with your company cafeteria since they are competing for your lunch dollar.  Again, use your legs and find the value where ever it is.

Look for blackboard specials.  Cafes and restaurants often display a board out front with work lunch specials to draw people in off the street expecting that they will be tempted by other offerings and drinks once they arrive.  Be disciplined to eat only the special and save money.

Keep it simple.  A humble ham sandwich will cost less than the turkey breast and camenbert on ciabatta with french mustard.  (Sorry Babe that's just the way it is.)  Think of it this way.  If you had cut your own work lunch, would it more closely resemble the ham sandwich or the fancy turkey breast option?  Save money on everyday sustenance for work and then with the money you have saved treat yourself to an occasional quality restaurant meal experience shared with good company when you have time to enjoy it.

Drink tap water.  It's healthy and good cafes will provide water for free.  If not, carry your own supply of tap water or water from the office water cooler.  I can never understand anyone paying for water in any place in the world where tap water is drinkable.

Keep it healthy.  Resist the temptation of buying cheap junk food to fit your budget. If you think your budget can only afford pizza, hamburgers or deep fried junk, then search further for better alternatives.  Have I mentioned using your legs yet!?  Often there is healthy food to be found for less than the cost of a burger meal deal. If you're accustomed to eating fast food, a healthy salad wrap won't hit you with that salty-sweet zing your taste buds will be expecting at lunch time.  Return to basics.  Retrain your tongue to appreciate fresh natural ingredients once more.  It may take time before "rabbit food" becomes tasty again but your body will thank you for it in the long run.   Have you ever seen an unhappy rabbit?

After a week of doing this, add up every dollar spent on work lunches, for the week.  If you blew your budget, not to worry.  Consider how much money you saved compared to previous weeks.  Multiply that saving by 48 weeks over a full year and start dreaming of what you will do with all that extra money!  I decided to spend my savings on breakfast out each work day morning, applying the same money saving ideas as above for work lunches and saving even more time in the kitchen.

Related Posts:
Subway Subs - Size Doesn't Matter After All

If you are working or earning your degree at home, you can have the health and convenience of your kitchen at the tip of your fingertips! Check out degrees you can earn at home at great masters degrees.
Read more »


E10 vs Unleaded

Unleaded petrol containing up to 10% ethanol (E10) is becoming widely available as an alternative to regular unleaded petrol (ULP). In NSW it has replaced ULP at petrol stations. In states where there is still a choice at most petrol stations, E10 is cheaper per litre than ULP and most modern cars designed for ULP can safely use E10.

However, there are a few matters worth considering for the money and time conscious. Ethanol fuel has a lower energy value, so your engine will burn more fuel all things being equal. The extra fuel consumption will neutralise the cost per litre benefit you thought you were gaining. So E10 is not really cheaper despite the lower price tag. Also, over time you’ll be filling up more often so wasting time and fuel when interrupting your journey for a pit stop.

" E10 is not really cheaper despite the lower price tag."

Secondly, not all cars are designed to be compatible with as much as 10% ethanol in the fuel. Ethanol is a solvent and corrosion issues are possible. Check the FCAI website for cars which cannot use Ethanol.

Finally if your car is designed to use a high octane fuel, E10 is not suitable.  Your vehicles handbook will clearly state a minimum RON 95 or greater. Continue to fill with the recommended premium unleaded petrol.

So, given the minefield of potential compatibility problems, and the questionable economics of ethanol blended petrol, why ever would you use E10? The compelling reason is that it’s going to help save the planet.

Burning ethanol as a fuel is said to be better for the environment because of its potential to be made from green waste. In Australia ethanol is made from wheat crop and sugar cane waste. The carbon released from our exhaust pipes is offset by the carbon taken out of the air by the plant as it grows.

Personally I am happy to accept this justification, so long as the ethanol we use continues to be produced from green waste. If we start using ethanol made from crops grown specifically for ethanol production, this will only add to pressure on global food production resulting in worsening starvation and require larger amounts of land to be cleared for crops.

However if you’re not convinced by the green agenda which also gave us the Toyota Prius Hybrid, is responsible for three different rubbish bin collections and made Peter Garrett mad enough to join mainstream politics, then best stick with good old (very old in fact) fossil fuels to save your time and money.

Related Posts about Cars
Premium Unleaded vs Unleaded
Car Tyre Ratings Sneaky Up Sell
Paying the Price When Petrol Pumps Are "Not In Use" 

Read more »


Premium Unleaded vs Unleaded

Unleaded Petrol Choices
Fill up with the correct unleaded petrol for your car and avoid wasting time and money on high octane hype.

Premium unleaded petrol is more expensive than regular unleaded Petrol, but the benefits may not justify the cost.  Not all cars can take advantage of the high octane in premium unleaded petrol.  It pays to make an informed decision prior to arriving at the petrol pump about what petrol is best for your car and why.

Advertising on TV and radio reassures us that using special premium formulas of unleaded petrol will increase power, gain efficiency, improve mileage, protect the engine and produce cleaner emissions.  Fatherly advice offered by voiceovers so deep and gravely that it could not be possible by any man with normal levels of testosterone, suggests to us that these impressive sounding premium petrol products with snazzy names and big numbers will mean greater performance of your vehicle no matter what you drive.

The average driver is unlikely to put these claims to the test.  Even with a trip computer on the dashboard, it’s not all that convenient to accurately compare the performance of differently priced unleaded petrol products.  So at the petrol pump we are likely to make an in-the-moment decision which often falls in favour of what we perceive to be a safer choice for our engines, the environment and on-road performance, even if it costs just a few extra dollars per pit stop.

The usual sources of impartial advice enthusiastically offered at gatherings around the water cooler, or friends and relatives at backyard BBQs on weekends, don’t help matters.  Many people fill up with premium petrol brands believing that only a premium product befits their precious motor, much as they would not be seen with less than a premium beer label inserted snugly into their "World's Greatest Dad" stubby holder.

What is Premium Unleaded Petrol? 
The product names of the premium petrol products will often include a number eg “Unleaded 95”.  That number you see in the product name which is somewhere between 91 and 100, relates to the Research Octane Number or RON.  Under the National Fuel Quality Standards Premium Unleaded Petrol (PULP) is required to have a minimum RON95, whereas regular Unleaded Petrol (ULP) has a minimum RON91.  You pay more for a higher octane fuel.

In the table below you can see that petrol outlets typically offer a choice of regular unleaded petrol with RON91, premium unleaded petrol with RON95, and ultra-premium unleaded petrol with RON98.
Outlet Product Octane
BPUnleaded 9191
Premium Unleaded 9595
Ultimate Unleaded98
Vortex 9595
Vortex 9898
MobilUnleaded 9191
Premium Unleaded 9595
Premium Unleaded 9898
Unleaded 9595
“Octane” in petrol is not a measure of energy or power (or manhood). Research Octane Number (RON) relates to the fuels resistance to ignite under high pressure. During normal operation of the petrol engine, ignition of the fuel mix is supposed to be activated by a perfectly timed spark from the spark plug. Pre-ignition occurs when the fuel mix ignites too soon under extreme pressure within the combustion chamber. The poor timing of pre-ignition robs the engine of maximum possible power, but worse than that, the shock of the detonation could damage engine components. A knocking or pinging sound can be heard. So higher octane fuels, with a greater RON, means better resistance to pre-ignition and less chance of knocking.

High octane fuel is required to avoid engine knocking in engines operating at high ratios of compression. Not all engines operate at such extremes. Engines which are tuned for performance and operate at a high compression ratio, make use of high octane fuel to reduce the risk of knocking.

"What petrol does my car use?"
You are wasting your money if you are filling up with high octane fuel and your engine is not designed to take advantage of it. The decision about which fuel to use for best performance is not your decision to make.  This  has already been decided by the engine manufacturer. Assuming you have not modified your engine, and kept your car well maintained, the best fuel to use for your modern car is most likely stated on the petrol cap, or listed in the vehicles handbook.

Unleaded Petrol Cap
If your car manufacturer recommends ULP, rejoice! That’s regular UnLeaded Petrol. Regular unleaded petrol is usually the cheapest unleaded petrol at the pump and provided your engine is not modified and in good shape, ULP as stated in the handbook is the best choice for your car. More expensive premium unleaded petrol with RON above 91 will not do your car any harm, but will not drastically improve performance. Save your money and treat yourself to a premium beer at your next BBQ.

If minimum RON95 or RON98 is specified for your car, you must not fill with regular unleaded. Always fill with premium unleaded petrol (PULP) at or above the minimum RON specified by your car manufacturer. The engine will be designed to take advantage of the higher octane. Using unleaded petrol with lesser octane could produce engine knocking resulting in expensive damage, especially when driven aggressively or heavily loaded.

Increasingly for some new cars, the handbook will allow a choice of either unleaded or premium petrol, but indicate that premium unleaded petrol is preferred by the car manufacture for best performance. Modern road cars fitted with advanced engine management systems can detect knocking and make adjustments so that fuel with lower octane can be used safely but with some loss of power as a downside. For these vehicles, it could be said that high octane fuel found in premium unleaded petrol will improve performance compared with using regular unleaded petrol. This is why the man with the deep voice on the ad who claims improved performance by switching to high octane premium fuel is not completely wrong. For these particular cars with the correct type of engine management system, premium unleaded petrol will improve performance. If you drive one of these cars, I’m sure the car salesman would have rammed this down your throat when you bought the car so you would already know before filling up that you have the option of filling with either premium unleaded petrol or unleaded petrol.

For older cars registered in Australia prior to 1986 which were designed to run on leaded petrol (“Super”), you may need to fill up with a high octane premium fuel, plus a lead replacement additive. Super had an octane level equal to RON97. However not all cars prior to 1986 must use premium unleaded petrol. See the AIP website for a list of older cars which can use regular unleaded petrol.

Engine Cleaning Additives

Octane rating aside, each petrol brand boasts additional special benefits for their unleaded petrol formula.

Some, but not all, premium unleaded petrol brands claim to contain additives which are said to prevent the build-up of carbon deposits, helping your engine to use fuel more economically, thus saving you money. Given the price difference between unleaded petrol and the more expensive premium unleaded petrol, I would not expect any money to be saved by filling up with premium unleaded for this reason alone.

If you like the idea of a fuel that cleans your engine, consider a petrol brand such as Shell which has the same cleaning additives across all their unleaded petrol products. For example if I fill up with Shell regular Unleaded petrol, I know I am getting the same engine cleaning formula as the more expensive premium Unleaded95 petrol product.

Anti Friction Additives

Special anti-friction lubricants are often reserved for the very top end of the premium unleaded petrol range, intended for high performance engines. For example according to Shell literature, the addition of what Shell call “Friction Modification Technology” is attributed only to the most expensive Shell V-Power product, which has an octane level far exceeding the needs of an average vehicle. Marketing petrol products in this way makes us feel as if we are missing out on something unless we buy the most expensive product. If your car engine is tuned for high performance and you drive to its very limits, then the anti friction additives are a handy feature of ultra premium unleaded petrol.

Ethanol in Petrol

Just when we've finally sorted out what unleaded petrol is best for your car, along comes bio-fuels to make the decision at the pump even more confusing. The comparison and advantages of E10 vs Unleaded is now covered in a new post.

Related Post
Car Tyre Ratings Sneaky Up-sell
Paying the Price When Petrol Pumps Are "Not In Use"
Read more »