How to spot a gas guzzler when buying a car

Back in 2014, everyday Australians used up 18,893 million litres of fuel – how much of that was yours?

This figure from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows just how much we’re burning through every year, and that’s not even including commercial trips such as the entire trucking industry (an extra 7,116 million litres).

Not only can a gas guzzling machine be hard on your wallet, it can also add to your emissions footprint. So when you’re looking to purchase your next vehicle, keep an eye out for these signs of cars that use more than their share in fuel consumption so you know what to avoid.

Look for the mileage

A car’s mileage is the number one indicator of how much petrol or diesel it consumes. It’s a measure of how far you travel on how much petrol. For example, a car that takes you 100 kilometres on seven litres of petrol offers better gas mileage than one that travels the same distance on 10 litres.

If the retailer or seller of the car you’re looking at doesn’t have an accurate figure to tell you, you can look it up on the government’s Green Vehicle Guide. This tool will even allow you to compare several vehicles at once if you’re tossing up between options, and it will tell you an estimate of how much it will cost you at the pump each year.

Generally speaking, anything that’s six litres per 100 kilometres (or more than 16.5 kilometres per litre, depending on how you look at it), is considered pretty good.

Petrol or diesel?

Diesel has always been considered as a fuel for trucks, but that perception is quickly changing thanks to the fact that it’s usually better for fuel economy.

Basically, diesel engines use compression ignition, which makes for more efficient burning of fuel. As this is somewhat more high-tech than what you’d find in a petrol car, this is often part of the reason why diesel-run vehicles are more expensive to buy.

Tyre condition

When you’re looking to buy a vehicle second-hand and are only considering fuel efficient cars, be sure to go further than checking under the hood – check the tyres, too.

Firstly, and most obviously, underinflated tyres take more fuel to make them move than properly inflated ones. This is a quick and easy fix when you check the correct PSI in the owners manual and properly inflate the tyres at your nearest service station.

Another thing to look for is the tread on the tyres. While a deeper tread will offer you more grip on the road, it will also take more fuel to drive them. Most drivers don’t need such heavy-duty grip. Generally, the tyres that come with the car are the most fuel efficient available, so check to see if the tyres are original, or have been replaced with appropriate alternatives.