High pump prices

One in four forced to limit fuel spend

30 August 2011

Last week, the AA attended 15% more out-of-fuel breakdowns than at the same time last year

Near-record petrol and diesel prices are forcing more than one in four (28%) AA members to restrict the amount they spend when they refuel the car. That rises to more than 40% among less well-off drivers.

Among those limiting their fuel spend, 29% have had to drive less or blow their budget. Someone spending £30 a week on petrol is getting 34.6 fewer miles - equivalent to almost two days commuting by car - than a year ago. Last week, the AA attended 15% more out-of-fuel breakdowns than at the same time last year.

Paying a set amount

Consumers are cutting out 1 in 20 trips, shopping closer to home, combining trips and watching pump prices like hawks. Some are putting their and others' lives at risk of grinding to a halt by running on fumes

Edmund King, AA president

14% pay a set amount on their credit card when they visit a fuel station and 14% set a limit when they pay by cash. Women restrict their fuel spending more than men, respectively 31% against 26%.

Among unskilled workers, long-term unemployed, and people on state pensions only, 44% pay a set amount when they buy fuel for their car. Even in the skilled service and manual worker group, 40% set a limit. This compares with 21% in the top socio-economic group, which includes middle and higher managers and professionals.

The regions where fuel spends are most likely to be limited are Northern Ireland (34%), the North West (32%) and Wales (32%). London (26%) and the South (25%) are the areas with the least self restriction.

Among those AA members that budget a set amount for buying fuel, 23% have had to raise their limit, 13% have had to cut back on their spend and 29% have had to cut back on their car use. A further 19% are still trying to limit their fuel spend but have ended up visiting the petrol station more often.

Comment

"This AA research is a stunning indication of just how badly fuel prices are affecting so many drivers across the UK. It is little wonder when you consider that a £30 spend even at peak prices in 2008 (119.7p/ltr) bought 25.1 litres of petrol. A year ago, the same amount bought 25.9 litres (115.62) and now it buys 22.3 litres (134.37)," says Edmund King, the AA's president.

"With an average new car covering 9.6 miles per litre, the £30 spend buys around 34.6 fewer miles than a year ago. In 2010, the average commuting trip was 9 miles, which means that a £30 spend on petrol is buying almost two fewer days travel to work than a year ago or in 2008.

"So often members tell us that driving to work represents the priority use of their car and that other trips have to suffer to make financial ends meet. If the fuel gauge is in the red by the end of the week, the likelihood of a six-mile or more round trip to an out of town store diminishes. Consumers are cutting out 1 in 20 trips, shopping closer to home, combining trips and watching pump prices like hawks. Some are putting their and others' lives at risk of grinding to a halt by running on fumes."

At the end of last week, average UK petrol prices had fallen to 134.37p a litre and diesel down to 138.57. In early May, they hit an all-time record of 137.43 and 143.04 respectively. A year ago, the average cost of petrol was 115.62p a litre and 118.18 for diesel.

(AA/Populus surveyed 15,860 AA members between 20-27 July 2011)