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Car fuel costs much more now than it used to and, according to RAC Fuel Watch, diesel prices are likely to increase even further.
Along with rising inflation and energy costs, these price hikes are affecting our bank balance and we’re having to adjust our driving habits to suit.
Many drivers are now trying to use their cars less to help keep costs down. But when using a car is necessary, a fuel calculator can help you save on petrol or diesel and driving more efficiently can mean spending less money at the pump.
The two most common car fuels are petrol and diesel. Petrol cars tend to be more common though and have a larger share of the new car market than diesel models.
The cost of both fuels has risen considerably. In July 2022, the UK saw record highs when prices reached approximately 191p per litre for petrol and 199p for diesel.
This contrasts with the previous July when the costs per litre were approximately 132p for petrol and 134p for diesel.
While prices have fallen since those peak numbers, the cost of filling an average car with fuel is still around £100 for diesel and £90 for petrol. In fact, on average, households are now paying more than £500 per year extra to run a medium-sized petrol car.
What you pay for fuel is influenced by several factors, including the cost of crude oil (which is used to make petrol) and the value of the pound against the dollar.
The price you pay for petrol and diesel when you're at the pump depends on several distinct components, including:
How much you pay for fuel can vary widely depending on where you are in the UK. This can even be the case between neighbouring towns.
The main driver of local petrol prices is how much competition there is.
If an area has several petrol stations - particularly if this includes supermarket forecourts - it can help to lower petrol prices.
On the other hand, retailers in more remote spots usually charge higher prices as they sell less and still need to cover their overheads.
If you’re hitting the road or visiting a new area, it can be useful to know where you can find the best petrol prices.
We can help you compare costs to find the cheapest places to fill up nearby.
Using a petrol calculator can also help if you’re planning a route and want to know the fuel costs in advance.
Although diesel and petrol are both made from crude oil, they have different properties which make them work differently.
Diesel fuel has a higher energy content and is also better at thermal efficiency. This makes diesel cars more economic than petrol for long distances.
However, diesel fuel costs more and the cars are typically more expensive than petrol equivalents.
Diesel engines also require a particulate filter to help reduce pollution. This needs to be run at faster speeds to stop it from getting clogged and causing damage.
If you mostly do shorter and low-speed journeys, a petrol or electric option is likely to be more economic.
As well as being a greener choice, some drivers are also switching to electric vehicles (EVs) to avoid the rising cost of fossil fuels.
But while EVs can make refuelling more affordable, soaring energy prices are likely to eat into these savings.
For example, according to the RAC, the cost for using a public rapid charge point has increased by 42% since May 2022.
However, a home charging point should still be cheaper than using petrol or diesel, or recharging at a motorway service station.
And because EV running costs are typically much lower, you can also make savings here. But as electric cars generally have higher price tags, research commissioned by the AA shows that many people still feel they’re too expensive to consider.
Making some simple changes to your driving habits can mean spending less money at the petrol pump.
Regular maintenance and servicing can improve your fuel consumption. Even just having your tyres at the right pressure can make a difference
Driving in the highest gear possible while keeping within the speed limit will help your engine to use less fuel
Read the road and don’t slam on the brakes. Gentle use of the accelerator and brake is better for fuel economy
Removing weighty items you don’t need and taking off roof boxes and bike racks when not in use will make it easier for your car
Avoid busy sections of road to prevent sitting in traffic. And if you have to stop for any length of time, turn your engine off rather than let it idle
Engines are more efficient when they’re warm, so making one round trip instead of several shorter ones will help your car use less fuel
Using air conditioning and heating when you don’t really need it can increase your fuel consumption. Try adding or losing a layer of clothing instead
The fuel price data is provided by Experian who are supplied by the petrol station companies as a feed daily
The cost of filling up. RAC Foundation.
Petrol and diesel prices. House of Commons Library.