December is roadtrip season for many South Africans, as families enjoy some time off work. Obvious as it may sound, however, those planning to hit the road this festive season should take adequate precautions when filling their vehicle with fuel.
According to Leslie Mitchell, Managing Director at Garagesure Consultants & Acceptances, he sees around 200 cases per year of the wrong petrol being put into vehicles, affecting approximately 15% of all petrol forecourt owners in South Africa.
Leslie says using the wrong fuel can cause significant damage to your vehicle and leave the owner with a hefty insurance bill, even if the fault is that of the petrol attendant. The increase in customers at petrol stations during the festive season, particularly for those in normally quiet locations, means that this is an even more likely scenario at this time of year.
Because petrol pump attendants are especially busy at Christmas, it is advised to physically get out of your car and ensure the right fuel is being dispensed in order to avoid any financial repercussions.
Mitchell says claims for the wrong fuel can cost anywhere between R9 700 and R132 000 – depending on the damage caused to the vehicle – and that the cost has little to do with the make or model of the car.
“The underwriter or insurer of the petrol station concerned should be held liable in this situation; however, the reality is that not all insurers or underwriters do accept liability when such an event occurs.”
“Some insurers of fuel stations put a cap on the amount that they can be held liable for in each individual case, with a further cap on the amount one station can claim in a year. Other insurers take it a step further and apportion liability to the owner of the vehicle on the legal basis that there is an onus on their part to ensure that the correct fuel has been dispensed.”
He says that while it is not feasible for every motorist to ascertain with whom the fuel stations are insured, especially as one travels around the country, there are some practical precautions motorists can take, such as:
- Get out of your vehicle and make sure that the pump has been zeroed and that the correct nozzle has been placed into your vehicle;
- Be patient with the attendant if he asks you to repeat your instruction. It may save you a lot of money;
- Ensure that a small sticker is placed inside the petrol cap of the vehicle if the manufacturer has not done so. The attendant can then see whether it is diesel or petrol;
- Check your slip before pulling off to see that the correct fuel was dispensed;
- Remember that you may sometimes drive someone else’s vehicle. Force of habit may cause you to instruct the attendant to dispense the wrong; and
- Ensure your oil cap and bonnet are replaced properly.