Why filling up the car is like using teletext

I have problems with my nozzle. When I am filling up the car, I can never get it quite right.

When visiting the petrol station in the past, I usually just filled the tank right up. But in the light of fuel price-geddon that has gripped the nation this year, I have switched to aiming to pay a certain round number in the past couple of months.

My chosen amount is £30.00. This is good to fill my tank to about three quarters full — enough for about two weeks of merry driving to and from work.

The problem is that I have only ever managed to hit £30.00 once. Every other time I have ended up paying £30.01.

The extent to which this matters is debatable. It would be pretty embarrassing if I were to pay in the kiosk. And it would be awkward if I had planned on paying in cash, and only had three tenners on me.

But as Aaron Corby pointed out, since I pay by card at the pump, the only person who really knows about my one penny overshoot is me. But my perfectionism does not allow me to accept this state of affairs.

What can you do? When I wrote about this on Twitter, many suggested aiming for £29.99. Easier said than done! In my experience, the figure always jumps.

£30.01 WTF!

It’s like in the old days when you tried to look something up on teletext. You stare at the scrolling page number in the corner, anticipating the point when it reaches your chosen page… when all of a sudden it jumps.

Perhaps the best piece of advice was from Richard Rooney:

My tip? DON’T try to hit round number. Just stop filling whenever. Over lifetime of driving I’ll gain at least 5 mins!


  1. LOL – you sound like one of those obsessives who walks down the pavement trying to avoid the cracks in the paving-slabs 😉 Seriously though, I often try to hit a round figure when fuelling-up and like you often under-/over-shoot by a penny or cent. However, my practice is still to let my tank go down to just over a quarter-full, then fill up, but try and squeeze a little more in to reach a round figure, whatever it turns out to be – that way I have to visit the petrol station the least often possibe, which is my real goal 🙂 .