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'Boycott greedy fuel retailers whose gallons cost £8 or more'

Mike Rutherford thinks current fuel prices are ripping-off the British motorist

Mike Rutherford opinion

A dirty, sneaky, little secret has arrived on some petrol and diesel forecourts. It’s the £8 gallon and it’s one of the motoring rip-offs of the year – not least because, very deliberately, the eye-wateringly high price isn’t clearly displayed to unsuspecting customers. Come to think of it, from the illuminated roadside signs to the forecourts, forecourt shops and pumps themselves, there are zero references to the historically important fact that the £8 (£8.04 to be precise) gallon has already been dumped upon us.  

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Instead, and only when a motorist gets up close and personal with a pump, there are tiny, sometimes poorly lit mentions of “176.9p per litre” – the highest price I saw last week. But why not quote the price per gallon, too? It would be easy, fair and transparent for fuel retailers, yet they choose to place the burden on customers like you and me to a) remember there are 4.546 litres in a gallon, then b) work out that 176.9p x 4.546l = £8.04 per gallon – which is something the oil industry, Government and fuel retailers don’t want motorists knowing or thinking about. 

Thus their collective love of litres. It’s a mind-games thing, in that a price of ‘just’ 100p-plus per litre tends not to offend. Consumers aren’t put off by a 1L product costing only pennies. But a gallon of the same liquid costing £8 or more looks, sounds and is a different story – one that mustn’t be swept under the carpet. 

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Why do I believe we must continue to think in gallons as well as litres? Partly because they’re both valid for motorists (just as pints and millilitres are essential measurements for beer and wine drinkers); partly because car makers and Government still formally refer to miles per gallon; partly because most of the motorists I know still don’t talk of litres but do, for example, speak of a thirsty vehicle doing, say, 20mpg or a more frugal one achieving 40mpg. In turn, it’s quicker and easier to work out that, with that circa-£8 gallon in mind, a 20mpg vehicle is lumbered with a fuel-only cost of 40p per mile, while its 40mpg counterpart costs 20p per mile in fuel. 

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If you fill, say, a 12-gallon tank with fuel costing just a tad over £8 a gallon, you’ll pay circa £100 for one measly tankful. Make that £160 if you’re refuelling a 20-gallon tank. Do the latter weekly and your annual fuel bill will be around £8,300, which is nuts.

Another reason for the gallon remaining in the everyday motoring vocabulary is this: it’s a simple, accurate, tried and tested way of carrying out like-for-like price comparisons over several decades. Which begs the question, how on earth has a humble gallon been allowed to skyrocket in price from circa 34p in 1971 to nearer £8 in 2021? This represents an increase of around 2,200 per cent – an inflation-shattering figure that the men in Government and oil-industry suits would prefer the motorist not to know about. But now you do. So boycott and punish those greedy fuel retailers whose gallons cost £8 or more, then shop around for those that cost £7 or less. Result? Even if your annual mileage isn’t high, you could effortlessly save yourself hundreds of pounds a year. Truly, it’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to slash your car-related costs.

Check out our comprehensive guide on E10 fuel here...

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Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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