Singapore celebrated the full reopening of its border with Malaysia last week, after land crossings closed two years ago due to the pandemic. But the festive mood between the Southeast Asian neighbors has been dampened by several reports of drivers coming from Singapore to pump cheap gas in Malaysia. It looks like going over the border for cheaper gas isn’t just a thing U.S. drivers do.
Some in Singapore have tried to save money by pumping lower grade 95 octane gas at stations in Malaysia, Bloomberg reports. That gas is strictly for residents since 95 octane is subsidized by the Malaysian government — for Malaysian drivers. In fact, the sale of 95 octane to drivers in foreign-registered cars was banned in 2010, per the Straits Times. So, selling the subsidized gas is a serious offense and carries serious fines. From Bloomberg:
The Johor division of Malaysia’s Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs said it will step up enforcement against operators caught selling the fuel to foreign-registered cars, with companies liable for fines of up to 2 million ringgit ($474,400). Former Prime Minister Najib Razak also highlighted the issue in a Facebook post, calling for increased monitoring of such sales.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Singaporean drivers are banned from pumping any gas in Malaysia. The more expensive and higher grade 97 octane is perfectly OK to pump in foreign cars; so is diesel. One other quirk — which would probably ruin my day if I was driving a TDI — is that 97-RON comes out of green nozzles, while 95-RON comes from the yellow ones. Presumably, the colors help station attendants keep an eye on who’s pumping the cheaper gas.
But now, it’s not just station employees that are watching. The Malaysian government is reportedly sending officials to monitor stations along the border. As of this week, the ST says 95 octane costs (in USD) about $1.85 per gallon, compared to 97 octane at $3.52 per gallon. That’s quite a jump, but, again, it’s because the lower grade carries subsidies. Per Bloomberg:
Malaysia previously banned the sale of 95-RON gasoline to cars not registered locally because that grade of petrol is subsidized for residents. Singapore currently sells that [fuel] grade at more than four times what it costs in Malaysia. Consumers’ desire for cheaper petrol comes as global oil prices surge. Singapore earlier made it mandatory for all locally-registered vehicles to have at least three-quarters of their fuel tanks filled before driving out of the country.
So for those of you planning on going across the Johor-Singapore Causeway, just make sure you pumped at least three-quarters full before heading into Malaysia. And when you’re there, remember to use the green pumps.