Who hasn’t grumbled about the price of petrol? Well, in the global scheme of things, Australians have it pretty good.
To give us an idea of the cost of petrol around the world, we’ve used the average pricing data from Global Petrol Prices.
The data below – captured on August 16, 2021 – gives us a reasonable view of petrol prices per litre around the world in Australian dollars.
For clarity’s sake we’ve decided not to list out all 167 countries tracked by the website. If you’re interested, check out their full list of petrol prices.
Knowing it costs 79 cents per litre somewhere in the world is a little abstract.
With that in mind, we’ve also included how much it costs to fill up a 50L tank like the one used in the Hyundai Elantra or Toyota Corolla.
As we did with our earlier How much does a Toyota Corolla cost around the world? feature, we’ve tried to put fuel prices in a local context.
Paying just $15.80 to fill up a car seems incredibly affordable to us, but in many other parts of the world it’s a fair whack of change.
The income % column is derived from World Bank average annual income data.
We’ve broken it down to a weekly amount, and figured out how much a tank of petrol is as a percentage of average weekly income.
In some cases the data wasn’t available, or is woefully out of date.
Unless otherwise noted, all prices in this article are in Australian dollars.
|Rank||Country||$/L||$/50L tank||Income %||Oil prod rank|
Venezuelans with a valid Fatherland Card can purchase their first 120L of petrol per month at 5000 bolivars ($0.027) per litre. Above this quantity it costs around 70 cents per litre.
Reports indicate that for people buying fuel at the heavily subsidised rate, petrol stations don’t even bother collecting money from clients.
Venezuela’s world-leading petrol subsidy was introduced by former president Hugo Chavez, and reportedly cost the state billions of dollars per year.
The South American country sits on one of the world’s largest oil reserves, and the nation’s entire oil infrastructure is controlled by PDVSA, a state-run firm.
Due to US sanctions, as well as crumbling extraction and refining infrastructure, Venezuela now only ranks as the world’s 27th largest oil producer. Despite this, oil-related exports account for around 90 per cent of the country’s income.
As an interesting aside, Venezuela, through PDVSA, owns Citgo, a refiner and petrol station chain that has a big presence along the east coast of the US.
Although PDVSA owns all of Citgo’s shares, economic ties were cut off in 2019 and the company seems to be run independently of Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuelan government.
In fact, the US recognises an alternate government of Juan Guaido and has actively blocked creditors from seizing the firm.
Like Venezuela, Iran has a tiered pricing structure for petrol.
Citizens can buy petrol at 15,000 rials ($0.082) per litre for the first 60L per household per month. Above this limit, petrol costs 30,000 rials ($0.164) per litre.
Depending on how much petrol you use in a month, Iran could actually be a cheaper place to fill up than Venezuela.
The country has been hit hard by international sanctions, led by the United States.
This has seen export revenues shrink as many countries now refuse to do business with Iran. The sanctions have also made it hard for Iran to source the equipment and supplies needed to maintain its oil refining infrastructure, meaning it has import increasing amounts of petrol for domestic use.
In 2019, the biggest protests since the contested election of 2009 erupted across the country after the government introduced the current pricing scheme, which not only doubled the price of petrol, but also cut the allocation for the cheapest rate from 250L per month to just 60L per month.
The Top 11, fuel subsidies and oil production
Many countries with significant oil reserves subsidise the extraction of oil, and processing it into fuels and other substances, but this doesn’t naturally translate into lower petrol prices for consumers.
Out of the 10 cheapest countries for petrol, only two are also in the top 10 oil producing nations: Iran, which we’ve already talked about, and Kuwait.
|Oil prod rank||Country||Barrels/day prod||$/L|
The top 11 countries, and possibly a little further beyond, in our main pricing table achieve their low prices through direct subsidies.
This typically costs billions in lost revenue or direct subsidies to ensure prices are below the global market rate, but these governments believe it’s worthwhile for political and social reasons.
As we’ve noted in our Iran section above and Lebanon section below, things can go pear-shaped when governments decide to increase the price of petrol in order to free up cash for other purposes or to stave off bankruptcy.
While we think of the USA as the mecca for cheap petrol (or gas?), the Land of the Free only ranks as the 48th cheapest with an average price of $1.278 per litre.
This disconnect is partially down to our American and Euro-centric focus. That said, the USA does have the cheapest petrol for a developed and industrialised Western country.
Federal fuel tax has been fixed at 18.4 US cents per gallon since 1993, which sounds like a lot, but is actually just $0.068 per litre. Roughly 60 per cent of the money raised goes back into the highway system, and most of the rest goes towards to transit-related items.
Petrol prices vary wildly from state to state, and much of that can be attributed to state petrol taxes.
Oil producing states tend to have lower state gas taxes, with Alaska leading the way at 14.66 US cents per gallon and Texas not far behind at 20 US cents per gallon.
According to the AAA, the average price for petrol Stateside is US$3.163 per gallon ($1.68/L), with Mississippi coming out with the most affordable fuel at $2.782 per gallon ($1.03/L) and Texas second at US$2.817 per gallon ($1.04/L).
At the other end of the charts, California has the most expensive gas at US$4.394 per gallon ($1.62/L), well ahead of Hawaii at US$4.068 per gallon ($1.50/L), which has historically been the costliest place to fill up due to its location in the middle of the Pacific and reliance on south-east Asian suppliers.
Fun aside, this writer’s home state of New Jersey is the only one that completely prohibits people from pumping their own gas.
We know it doesn’t feel like it, but Australia’s petrol is pretty affordable, especially if you factor in our high incomes.
It would, naturally, be cheaper were it not for the 43.3 cent per litre fuel excise. The excise is indexed to inflation, and is adjusted twice a year.
At the time of writing, Fuelprice.io shows the average price for Unleaded 91 on the mainland states going from $1.47 per litre in Victoria to $1.52 per litre in South Australia.
Tasmania is a little pricier at $1.56 per litre, while the Northern Territory tops the charts at $1.72 per litre, although this figure is driven up by the cost of fuel in remote parts of the territory.
The EU and continental Europe
As region, Europe is an expensive place to run a vehicle, with petrol prices in all but three countries (Russia, Belarus, and Georgia) regularly above what most Australians would pay.
Russia is the cheapest place to get petrol in Europe with a litre costing only $0.934.
The cheapest places to fill up among the 27 EU nations are Bulgaria at $1.824 per litre and Romania at $1.913 per litre. They’re also the only two countries in the grouping where petrol is under $2.00 a litre.
The most expensive place in the EU is the Netherlands at $2.968.
Oil-rich Norway is happy to extract and refine oil, but through tax and registration incentives has the world’s largest per capita take up of electric vehicles. It also has some of the world’s most expensive petrol at $2.771 per litre.
The deliberately high price of petrol, car taxes based on CO2 output, and crowded cities with small, narrow streets have all conspired to push drivers towards smaller and more efficient vehicles.
As part of its effort to reduce carbon emissions, EU states tax diesel fuel at a considerably lower rate than petrol.
For example, diesel costs $2.198 per litre in Germany, while petrol is $2.472 per litre. That’s a saving of $13.70 per 50L tank without taking into account fuel economy differences.
Thanks to Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal, though, the popularity of oil burners has decreased dramatically since 2015.
Hong Kong and Singapore
Both jurisdictions have small land masses, high population density, and two of the best run and most extensive metro systems in the world.
To act as a further disincentive to car ownership, both cities also make cars expensive to buy and run.
Hong Kong taxes new cars at up to 115 per cent, and there are hefty annual licence fees based on engine displacement too.
While paying about $43,000 for a Toyota C-HR in Hong Kong may seem a little onerous, that’s nothing compared to $123,000 or so you’ll have to pay to have your own Corolla in Singapore.
Singapore’s byzantine Certificate of Entitlement setup also ensures most cars over 10 years old are scrapped.
As car owners in Singapore need to constantly upgrade their vehicles — and pay the heavy taxes associated with that — to stay on the road, Singapore’s petrol prices are at a mid-European level of $2.432 per litre.
Given Hong Kong buyers can choose between expensive new cars or the cheaper models through the used car market, the Special Administrative Region has put up one final disincentive: petrol that costs an eye-watering $3.478 per litre.
While Hong Kong often has the world’s most expensive petrol, the title unfortunately belongs to Lebanon at the moment.
Petrol prices there have spiked from around $1.86 per litre in May to $5.93 today.
Thanks to an economy that’s shrunk dramatically over the past few years, Lebanon’s government has decided to end petrol subsidies and is running out of cash to help with the importation of fuel.
This has led to petrol and diesel shortages nationwide, which has only been made worse by fuel smuggling across the border to Syria.
As a result, people are queuing for hours in their cars and motorcycles for small rations of petrol.