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Shopping around for cheaper petrol could be a waste of time and money

06 March 2013

Millions of drivers could be unwittingly wasting their time trying to find cheaper fuel prices.

  • 3.5m motorists will drive up to 10 miles out of their way to save 5p a litre
  • Another 2.5m motorists will drive 20 miles or more out of their way to save 5p a litre
  • However, even in a Ford Focus 1.6, driving just 9 extra miles could cancel out any potential saving
  • Confusion around ‘mile per litre' fuel consumption could be to blame with only 13% of drivers knowing their car's mile per litre fuel consumption
  • UK drivers spend an average of £38.81 every time they refuel
  • A 5p a litre saving could amount to just £1.40 in total on an average top-up


With fuel prices on the increase again, research commissioned by Gocompare.com has found that as many as 6 million* UK drivers could be wasting money by driving out of their way to find cheaper petrol or diesel.

The study of 2,000 UK drivers has revealed that 13%, or 3.5 million drivers, would travel up to 10 miles out of their way to save 5p per litre on fuel. Another 9%, or 2.5 million drivers, would travel 20 miles or more out of their way to make a 5p per litre saving.

A 5p per litre saving on an average top-up of £38.81 would save just £1.40 for petrol and £1.34 for diesel. Researchers at Gocompare.com have estimated the maximum distances motorists could drive before cancelling out the benefit of a 5p per litre saving on petrol or diesel when refuelling with an average top-up.

For example, at current fuel prices** driving a petrol engine car with an average combined fuel efficiency of around 45 miles per gallon for more than an extra 10 miles cancels out the benefit of a 5p per litre saving on an average £38.81 top-up. None of the figures take into account the additional time it takes and the extra wear and tear on your vehicle and tyres.

Table showing maximum extra distances to drive before cancelling out the benefit of saving 5p a litre with an average £38.81 fuel top-up.

Approx. MPG (combined)

Fuel Type

Example Cars

Cost in fuel per mile

Max. extra total distance driven before cancelling out 5p per litre saving on an average £38.81 refuelling top-up

20

Petrol

Range Rover 5.0 V8

Bentley Continental GT

31p

4.5 miles

25

Petrol

BWM X5 3.0si

Audi TT 3.2 V6

25p

5.6 miles

25

Diesel

Range Rover 3.6 TDV8

Audi Q7 4.2 V8 TDi

26p

5.1 miles

30

Petrol

Volvo C70 2.4

Renault Espace 2.0

20p

7 miles

30

Diesel

BMW X5 3.0d

Land Rover Discovery 3.0 V6

22p

6 miles

35

Petrol

Ford Galaxy 2.0

Nissan Qashqai 2.0

18p

7.7 miles

35

Diesel

Volvo XC90 D5

Chrysler Grand Voyager 2.8

19p

7 miles

40

Petrol

Volkswagen Golf 1.6 (102PS)

Ford Focus 1.6 Duratec (100PS)

16p

9 miles

40

Diesel

Peugeot 407 2.0 HDi (163bhp)

Renault Megane Sport dCi 150

16p

8.3 miles

45

Petrol

Toyota Yaris 1.33 VVTi

Mercedes A 160 Blue

14p

10 miles

45

Diesel

Vauxhall Zafira 1.9 CDTi (150PS)

Ford Mondeo 2.2 TDCi (175PS)

15p

8.9 miles

50

Petrol

Ford Fiesta 1.25 (82PS)

Honda Civic 1.4i

12p

11.6 miles

50

Diesel

Jaguar S type 2.0L

SAAB 9-3 Conv 1.9 TTiD (180PS)

13p

10.3 miles

55

Petrol

Fiat 500 1.2

Hyundai i10 1.1i

11p

12.7 miles

55

Diesel

Volswagen Golf 2.0 TDi

Mazda 6 2.2 (129PS)

12p

11.1 miles

60 and over

Diesel

Fiesta 1.6 Duratorq

Vauxhall Corsa 1.3CDTi (75PS)

11p

12.1 miles



Source of fuel economy data - www.carfueldata.direct.gov.uk

However, with a car's fuel consumption rated in miles per gallon (MPG) and fuel sold in litres, Gocompare.com believes many drivers find it difficult to calculate how many miles they can drive for their money.

Just 13% of drivers know how many miles they can drive per litre of fuel compared to 41 per cent who know their approximate MPG. A fifth (20%) of drivers think fuel stations should display prices in gallons as well as litres.

Scott Kelly, head of motor services at Gocompare.com, said: "With fuel prices heading up again it's not surprising that motorists will go out of their way to find cheaper petrol and diesel. However, what this research shows is that millions of motorists could be spending more on fuel in the hunt for the most competitive petrol stations, than they stand to save on their fuel when they get there. For drivers getting less than an average of 45 MPG from their car, an extra 10 mile round trip to get cheaper fuel could result in you paying more for an average top-up. And the 2.5 million drivers who would travel 20 miles or more out of their way for a 5p per litre saving would almost certainly lose money.

"If you do drive out of your way to find cheaper fuel make sure you buy enough when you get there to make driving the extra distance worthwhile. Otherwise, using a reasonably priced station on your usual route will make more sense than driving further to save a few pence per litre."

-ends-

Notes to editors:

Research commissioned by Gocompare.com carried out among 2,000 UK drivers on 30th January 2013 by OnePoll.

*6m figure is based on there being an estimated 28,420,877 motorists in the UK (Source - Department for Transport vehicle licencing statistics).  96% of respondents drove either a petrol or diesel fuelled car, and 96% of 28,420,877 = 27,284,042 petrol or diesel car drivers. 13% of drivers said they'd drive up to 10 miles to save 5p per litre on fuel.  27,284,042 x 13% = 3,546,925 drivers. 9% of drivers said they'd drive up to 20, up to 30 or more than 30 miles. 27,284,042 x 9% = 2,455,564.

**Based on latest average fuel prices from the AA - 137.9 pence per litre petrol and 144.8 pence per litre diesel

***Average refuel costs £38.81 which = 28.14 litres of petrol or 26.80 litres of diesel at current AA average prices. A 5p per litre saving on 28 litres of petrol = £1.40. A 5p per litre saving on 26.8 litres of diesel = £1.34.

Ford Focus 1.6 Duratec (100PS) has a combined average fuel consumption of 37.7 MPG rounded up to 40 MPG. £6.26 (gallon of petrol) / 40 = 15.65 pence per mile. £1.40 (5p per litre saving for 28.14litres petrol) / 15.65p per mile = 8.94 miles. Driving more than 8.94 miles (rounded to 9 miles) will cost more in extra used petrol than the £1.40 saving.

The same methodology is used for the calculations for all of the vehicles mentioned using the combined MPG rating -source of fuel economy data - www.carfueldata.direct.gov.uk/ vehicles mentioned in the table have had their combined MPG ratings rounded to the nearest approximate figure. Cost per mile figures are rounded to the nearest whole penny.