> How driving to work has changed for Sydneysiders

How driving to work has changed for Sydneysiders

At current fuel prices, people in Sydney are paying about $385 more over the year to drive to work than they did in 2019-2020.

Or, to put it another way, the average Sydneysider could have done the commute to and from work for nearly four extra days on a $50 refuel in 2019-20 than they can today.

In NSW, people who commute to work in a car drove, on average, a total of 6000 kilometres each over the 12 months to June 30, 2020, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.

That commute would have cost about $844 over that 12-month period for a passenger vehicle with a post-2015 average fuel economy of 10.4 litres per 100 kilometres and with petrol costing 135.2 cents per litre in NSW in 2019-20.

At Sydney’s average petrol price in mid-July of 196.7 cents per litre, that same commute would now cost $1227, or 45 per cent more than it did two years ago.

And if prices were to rise by the average increase over the past two years, in another 12 months’ time they would reach 233 cents per litre and that commute would cost $1457, or 73 per cent more than the annual cost in 2019-20.

This calculation doesn’t take the halving of the fuel excise in March 2022 into account. The tax, which usually amounts to an additional 44.2 cents per litre of fuel, was halved to 22.1 cents per litre on March 30. However, Australians are expected to go back to paying the full excise on September 28, 2022, which will likely lead to a jump in fuel prices.

The average Sydneysider is paying $430 more per year to drive to work than they were two years ago.

The average Sydneysider is paying $430 more per year to drive to work than they were two years ago.Credit:Eddie Jim

In terms of how far $50 will get you in Sydney, the answer is about 111 fewer kilometres than it did two years ago.

For the average car commuter in Greater Sydney who travels 15.89 kilometres to work (compared to 18.9 kilometres in the rest of NSW), a $50 refill will now get you 15.4 one-way trips to work, compared to 22.4 trips in 2019-20.

That means about 7 fewer one-way trips to work or 3.5 fewer days of doing the round-trip.

And if prices reached 233 cents per litre in 2023, $50 would get you 13 one-way trips to work, more than nine fewer trips than it got you in 2019-20.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said fuel prices were at the highest on record in Sydney on June 15 (about 219 cents per litre) and have been falling since.

He said prices were expected to get to about 180 cents per litre in the coming weeks, but extreme volatility in prices would continue as a result of a variety of global factors including inflationary pressures, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns in China.

“In all the years the NRMA has been monitoring fuel prices, we’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

“Even during the global financial crisis oil prices were more stable than this.”

Khoury said the volatility was an unfortunate reality for families who “don’t have a choice” when it comes to filling up the car.

The average distance driven by the average person each year in NSW has fallen only slightly in the past 10 years, from 6700 kilometres in 2009-2010 to 6000 kilometres in 2019-2020, ABS figures show, even as fuel prices have skyrocketed from 117 cents per litre to over 204 cents.

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