Petrol prices up 120% in 25 months: How motorists are coping

And strategies to consider as the new reality takes hold.
South Africans are becoming more comfortable with emerging value-for-money vehicle brands such as Suzuki, Kia, Daewoo, Chery and Mahindra. Image (Suzuki Jimny): Supplied

Petrol prices in South Africa have more than doubled since June 2020.

Consider the example of someone driving an average of 2 500km a month, in an average vehicle with a fuel efficiency of eight litres per 100km (12.5km/litre):

  • In June 2020, they would have spent around R2 444 on petrol each month.
  • In July 2022, their fuel cost will be R5 348.

Yet our data reveals that South Africans are yet to make significant changes to their patterns of car ownership to reduce the inflationary pressures they are facing.

And it’s not only the petrol price that is bringing pain to consumers.

More than just petrol price pressures

Consumers are facing a perfect storm of higher costs for car ownership.

They are paying higher interest rates on financed vehicles. The cost of servicing and maintaining a car has also increased due to global supply chain pressures and a volatile currency.

And conditions like deteriorating roads, increased load shedding and returning to the office have increased the wear and tear on vehicles as well as the frequency of accidents. Uninsured drivers are carrying that cost themselves, while insured drivers more frequently have to pay an excess.

Most consumers have seen their income stagnate over the past two years, not keeping up with inflation.

Despite this dark picture, there are a number of strategies they can adopt to reduce their spending on vehicles or personal transport.

Lower-spending strategies 

Vehicle downgrades

One would expect cash-strapped consumers to downgrade to older or smaller cars. However, our data shows that the average value and age of cars being insured has remained constant. On average, people are driving cars that have been on the road for roughly 6.5 years.

Becoming a single-vehicle household

There was a time that it seemed more households would sell their second car due to the remote and hybrid working trends. However, our data over the last six months shows the average number of cars per household staying consistent at 1.24.

One reason for this could be that many companies have started to call people back to the office now that the government has lifted the remaining pandemic restrictions.

Switching to better value brands

Most personal cars on South Africa’s roads can be broken down into five categories:

  1. Traditional good value-for-money cars (Toyota, Volkswagen, Ford, Mazda and Nissan)
  2. Higher-end vehicles (BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Lexus and Volvo)
  3. Established European value-for-money cars (Renault, Fiat, Citroen and Peugeot)
  4. Emerging value-for-money cars (Suzuki, Kia, Daewoo, Chery and Mahindra), and
  5. Other (niche).

The first group makes up around half of cars people are buying and insuring. However, the fourth group has increased from roughly 20% to 26% of the cars Naked customers are insuring. This shows that consumers are increasingly comfortable about trusting a new set of brands in their quest for value for money.

Driving less

Changing insurance excess

Some customers are looking for ways to save money on insurance.

It’s not wise for a vehicle owner to cancel their insurance cover, but they do have the option of increasing their insurance excess in order to secure a lower monthly premium.

Adjusting the excess payable in the event of a claim can offer some relief to those who are struggling to make ends meet.

However, they will be taking on the risk of having to pay a higher excess if they need to claim.

Interestingly, the Naked data shows that there has been no significant change in the average excess chosen, at R4 200.

Ernest North is co-founder of digital insurance platform Naked.

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spoke to a contractor that lives far away rural. Between him and his better half they spend about R22kpm on just fuel, with maintenance and tyres probably more like R30k. They could buy a R3m more expensive house close to target and save money each month.

Uninsured drivers do indeed carry the cost themselves.

We must not lose sight of the fact that insured drivers pay significantly higher premiums in case an uninsured driver collides with the insured vehicle.

Something is wrong in this country where uninsured drivers are allowed on our roads. It is also why we have a Road Accident Fund when what is required is mandatory basic vehicle insurance.

End of comments.

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