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‘Some high-mileage drivers will have fuel bills of more than £5,000 this year’

Mike Rutherford thinks something needs to be done about fuel prices before the average motorist is priced out of his or her humble private car – forever

Opinion - fuel prices

Here at Auto Express Towers we make no apologies for banging on about the rocketing price of petrol and diesel – the fuels that power around 98 per cent of the roughly 40 million cars, vans and trucks on UK roads today.

Pump prices always have and always will be one of the greatest financial burdens for private motorists paying their vehicle-related bills out of their own hard-earned salaries, savings accounts or pensions. And as with interest charges on new cars purchased, vehicle depreciation, insurance, plus servicing/MoT/repair charges, expenditure on fuel is right up there in the top five annual motoring costs.

Trouble is, two years ago virtually to the day, Asda and Morrisons forecourts were charging as little as 99p a litre (£4.50 a gallon), yet just last week the only Shell and BP sites I dropped in on were peddling some of their fuels at over £2 a litre (£9.09 per gallon). A doubling of prices in a mere 24 months? Is the £9-£10 gallon the ‘new norm’ in 2022? Some large SUVs costing £200 to refuel these days? Yup, yup, and yup, I’m sorry to say.

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Astonishingly, even a modest family car or small van might drink well over £100-worth of fuel during only one day on the UK’s motorway network. Here’s how. Let’s assume a driver fuels up at his or her closest and most convenient source – a motorway service area – where he or she pays just over £9 a gallon/nearly £2 a litre (the sort of prices now not uncommon on such sites).

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And let’s make two more important assumptions. Average fuel consumption of around 33mpg, which I suspect is fairly typical for untold millions of drivers in vehicles of widely differing age, size, quality and efficiency. And with a bit of good fortune and a welcome absence of serious accidents, roadworks, congestion, temporary speed limits and the like, I’m further assuming an average speed of 50mph might just be possible.

So with these numbers in mind, what sort of financial damage is likely to be inflicted on the wallet of the motorist paying for the fuel required during a busy but doable 200-mile motorway drive in the morning, followed by another couple of hundred miles in the evening? How about £27-plus for every 100 miles covered or, put another way, almost £110 for the full 400-mile drive lasting just eight hours. And remember, this sort of wedge merely covers fuel cost. M6 Toll fees, Dartford Crossing charges and paying to park at motorway service areas while taking safety-related breaks for a few hours are all extra.

The circa £2 litre/£9 gallon now being sneaked in at countless motorway service areas (plus some non-motorway garages situated out in the sticks, or at inner-city locations) can and must be blamed for fuel charges that will leave some high-mileage car and van drivers with fuel bills of more than £5,000 this year.

The cruel new rules of engagement, absence of fair play on some ‘oil giant’ forecourts, and unprecedented unaffordability at the pumps all have to go; before the average motorist is priced out of his or her humble private car – forever.

Click here for our list of the cheapest cars to run in the UK...

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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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