Fuel price rise no big stopper for caravan holidays in Australia

July 27, 2006
Fuel price rise no big stopper for caravan holidays in Australia

After 53 days and 6,647km of towing our Out There caravan in all terrains and conditions GoSeeAustralia does not see increased fuel costs as the major factor in the total cost of a caravan touring holiday in Australia.

To make the test real we did not travel light the combined weight of the GoSeeAustralia rig is about 5.7 tonnes with full fuel and water tanks.

And to factor in as many fuel and towing variables as we could the 6,647 km route covered a lot of country in all conditions from Canberra to Rockhampton and return.

Our GoSeeAustralia auto diesel 2005 model Sahara Landcruiser tows a 23 foot 2005 model Heritage Jayco caravan. So we talk diesel prices, but as in most cases the difference with petrol is only a few cents the results are a good indication for ULP users too.

Normal economy is a factor which can be adjusted up or down for individual comparisons.

Holiday touring towing a caravan is not a race and we set an easy pace as we headed north with our days travel planned at not more than 300 km.

Our route has variety, Canberra to Sydney up the Hume Hwy then along the Pacific Hwy and along the coast with wonderful scenery to Rockhampton and Yeppoon. Then we headed back south to Brisbane and turned inland to the New England Hwy to travel via Sydney to Canberra.

We tested a range of travelling speeds with fuel economy our goal and found the most economical speed was between 90-95 kph. Economy deteriorated dramatically over 95kph. Hills make a big difference and our worst economy caused by terrain was on the return trip down the New England Highway. In the hilliest country around Glen Innes on the run between Brisbane to Tamworth we averaged 19.5 lt/100km.

The weather can blow fuel efficiency away too and between Sydney and Canberra we battled strong head winds for about 250km and saw our diesel burn at the rate of 21 lt/100kms.

Cruise control is not necessarily always a positive in producing fuel efficiency.

Certainly it has a high convenience factor, but it is best used in easy flat towing.

In hilly going the system will always drive the throttle opening to maintain the set speed and that can send fuel use climbing.

A kookaburra makes the Winguard aerial home
A kookaburra makes the Wynguard aerial home

Driving style also makes a big difference to the amount of fuel being sucked out of the tank. The best fuel saving device ever invented is the drivers right foot. Lift it and you save fuel!

Thump the throttle down and then stand on the brakes and you might as well pour a litre of fuel on the road.

All diesels have a sweet spot. It is usually a narrow torque band which requires some skill and thought to get the best from. Overdrive may drop the revs and look like a fuel saver, but never leave a vehicle to lug in a gear which is too high for the job.

Over time the stresses placed on the gearbox and transmission can bring repair bills which will blow the holiday fuel savings with all the impact of a runaway space shot. If there is any shortfall in the cooling system it can get up and bite too.

When pulling gets heavy drivers should work with the lower gears regardless of whether the transmission is an auto or manual to keep the torque full on in the motors best rev range. If the option is there lock out overdrive, or if it is fitted use the power option.

Fuel and stress on the motor can be saved by easing the throttle slightly until the engine torque is spot on. This may be only 200rpm but steady progress will be made without a telltale trail of smoke announcing that too much fuel is being poured on the fire by a lead-footed driver for the motor to work at its optimum.

Tyre pressures are critical for both the tow vehicle and the caravan to travel safely and efficiently. For the Out There GoSeeAustralia rig we run at 32psi for the Heritages four tyres as this 23ft caravan has 15in wheels.

If your caravan is heavy and has 14in wheels 40-45psi may be the requirement. Either way follow the manufacturers recommendations. Do the same for the tow vehicle. With the Toyota Sahara we use 32psi front and 36psi rear. It often pays to add a couple of extra pounds to the rear wheels when towing heavy loads. Drop the pressure for normal driving with nothing in tow.

GSA University of New England Armidale (Old Teachers College building)
GSA visits University of
New England Armidale
(Old Teachers College building)

The best tyre pressure for the job varies across Recreational Vehicles, tow vehicles tyres and conditions. Get to know what is best for your rig and then check often. Own an accurate pressure gauge and enjoy the benefits, our experience has shown it can be expensive to rely on service station gauges.

A big immediate direct benefit is obviously safety. Then of course pluses like lower rolling resistance which brings fuel saving and reduced wear.

We used 1104 litres of diesel for the entire trip and averaged 16.6 lt/100kms. The highest price we paid was $1.49.9 a litre and the cheapest $1.28.5 a litre (with a shopper docket helping to cut the pump cost). The average diesel price for the trip was $1.36.5. Total diesel cost for the trip was $ 1511.52.

It is interesting that in the main fuel is cheaper in Queensland than NSW and ACT. The average cost of fuel in Qld was $1.32.7 while in NSW the average was $1.42.8, these prices include shopper docket discounts where we were able to get them.

During the trip we paid $326 for admission to attractions and venues. Another expense was the cost of powered site accommodation at the various caravan parks.

GoSeeAustralia recommends all travellers stop at proper caravan parks instead of roadside stops for safety. We spent $1,060 for accommodation at the Top Tourist and Family Parks we stayed at and also used our Top Tourist Club card and FPA VIP card to get a members discount of 10per cent.

There are two other major costs, food and social entertainment. We admit we did not keep accurate records of either of these two factors as they can vary so much with individual lifestyles and the number of people travelling.

So let us assume that food costs an average of $15 per day per person which may be either high or low depending on individual living standards. That is $1590 for two for the 53 days.

So the total trip cost was $4,492 of which fuel was $1511 or 33.6% of the entire outlay.

That is about $84.75 a day with everything included.

Now if we compare the difference when fuel was cheaper assuming fuel is 20c a litre cheaper across the board then the total fuel cost $1291 and the total trip cost $4,272. The net effect is that it only would have affected our overall 53 day trip by $220 or 4.5% of the entire cost.

Feeding Lorikeets at The Lorikeet Tourist Park
Feeding Lorikeets at
The Lorikeet Tourist Park

Fuel

Costs

For Trip

of

6647

KLMS

Advertised

Actual

If Fuel

QLD

NSW

Date

Amount

Per/Litre

Per/Litre

litres

less 20c

Disc

State

P/L

P/L

26/05/2006

$180.00

1.499

1.499

120.08

$155.98

N

NSW

1.499

1/06/2006

$172.00

1.419

1.419

121.21

$147.75

N

NSW

1.419

12/06/2006

$117.91

1.349

1.309

90.08

$99.90

Y

QLD

1.309

17/06/2006

$130.92

1.355

1.315

99.56

$111.01

Y

QLD

1.315

23/06/2006

$162.02

1.345

1.305

124.15

$137.19

Y

QLD

1.305

28/06/2006

$163.37

1.359

1.359

120.21

$139.32

N

QLD

1.359

3/07/2006

$78.13

1.349

1.349

57.92

$66.55

N

QLD

1.349

3/07/2006

$115.88

1.325

1.285

90.18

$97.85

Y

QLD

1.325

6/07/2006

$170.96

1.445

1.405

121.68

$146.62

Y

NSW

1.405

9/07/2006

$93.97

1.429

1.389

67.65

$80.44

Y

NSW

1.389

14/07/2006

$126.37

1.425

1.385

91.24

$108.12

Y

ACT

Averages

1.391

1.365

1.327

1.428

Totals

$1,511.52

1104

$1,290.73

  • To sum up although the rising fuel costs made a difference it was only $220 in $4492 of trip expenditure.

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