Pump rates have headed south again on the back of sliding oil prices, with the cheapest 92-octane petrol falling below the $2 level for the first time since 2012.
Esso was the latest to cut its prices, which dropped two cents yesterday morning, bringing the company's petrol and diesel prices in line with the competition.
The most popular 95-octane grade petrol is now $2 a litre before discount across all four brands here: Shell, Singapore Petroleum Company (SPC), Caltex and Esso.
The premium 98-octane ranges from $2.12 to $2.18 a litre, while Shell's V-Power is still the costliest at $2.43 a litre. Diesel is $1.45 a litre across all the brands.
All the petrol companies, except Esso, posted the new prices on their websites. The American giant put up a small "Pump price changed" sign at the entrances of its stations to inform motorists.
With the latest changes, pump prices are 14 cents lower than in October, and about 20 cents lower than last year's prices.
Even so, they are still 15 per cent to 20 per cent higher than in 2010, when Brent crude was last at the current level of US$70 (S$91.30) a barrel, and this is infuriating consumers.
Businessman Leslie Chia, 49, said he feels short-changed. "Pump prices never reflect real market crude prices," he said.
Company director Alan Lee, 63, said companies are "quick to adjust upwards, slow to reduce".
Industry observers said this could be partly because of recent competition for new petrol station sites.
According to the Housing Board, which puts petrol station sites up for bidding, Shell secured a 3,700 sq m 30-year-lease site in Hougang for a record $53.4 million in October.
But on an annual cost basis, Esso's $27 million bid for a 2,000 sq m 10-year-lease site in Ang Mo Kio in May takes the cake. That is equivalent to paying $81 million for a 30-year site.
An upcoming site in Tampines is also expected to draw strong bids because of its historically high sales volume. All the other sites secured in the past 10 years fetched an average of $15 million.
Oil industry consultant Ong Eng Tong said land cost is definitely a contributing factor, but it does not explain fully why pump rates are so high when oil prices have plunged by more than one- third since the middle of the year.
"If you ask the oil majors, they will say things like distribution costs have gone up," he said.
He added that it is also harder to compare prices now because oil companies offer "a lot of credit card-based discounts". "It is not as transparent as before," he said.
Ms Thia Ling Ling, Singapore retail fuel manager at ExxonMobil Asia Pacific, which sells the Esso brand of fuels, said: "Pump prices at our service station network are in line with prevailing market conditions. In the past 12 weeks, we have made eight downward adjustments to pump prices."