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With news that petrol could rise by 5p a litre, Gocompare.com reminds drivers that shopping around for cheaper fuel could be a waste of time and money

19 July 2013

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

  • 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 predicted to be on the increase again, research commissioned by Gocompare.com found that as many as 6 million**** UK drivers could end up wasting money by driving out of their way to find cheaper petrol or diesel.
The study of 2,000 UK drivers 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 that with petrol prices predicted to hit 140 pence per litre, driving a common petrol engine car, such as a Ford Focus 1.6 Duratec, with an average combined fuel efficiency of around 40 miles per gallon, the benefit of a 5p per litre saving on an average £38.81 top-up would be cancelled out by an extra 9 mile round trip for cheaper fuel. 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% 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 around 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.

* Ford Focus 1.6 Duratec (100PS) has a combined average fuel consumption of 37.7 MPG rounded up to 40 MPG. £6.36 (gallon of petrol) / 40 = 15.9 pence per mile. £1.40 (5p per litre saving for 28 litres petrol) / 15.9p per mile = 8.8 miles. Driving more than 8.8 miles (rounded to 9 miles) will cost more in extra used petrol than the £1.40 saving.**Average refuel costs £38.81 which = 27.72 litres of petrol at latest AA price prediction of 140p.  A 5p per litre saving on 28 litres of petrol = £1.40.

***Based on latest prediction from the AA (18th July 2013) that petrol prices will reach 140 pence per litre over the summer.

****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.