One in five have recently run out of fuel or run on fumes

25 September 2008

car instrument display warning of low fuel

Yo-yo oil prices are once again sending a shiver down the spine of UK drivers who gambled earlier this year on running their fuel gauges on red ... and lost, says the AA. The motoring organisation had hoped it had turned the corner on this year's 13 per cent increase in call-outs due to running out of fuel.

One in five drivers have recently run out of fuel or driven on fumes, with 22% saying this was because a £20 or £30 refill doesn't go as far as it did.

Those most likely to be caught out are younger drivers, with nearly half saying they had run their tanks dry or close to, the latest AA Populus Panel survey of 12,000 drivers reveals.

Although 58 per cent of drivers take the chance of running on or near red before next filling up, the declining number of fuel stations, in towns where high land prices offered a better return or in rural areas selling less fuel to customers, has helped to make running dry more likely.

Reasons for running out of fuel

Reasons given in the survey for running out of fuel were:

  • less fuel for your money – 22% (27% female respondents)
  • couldn't find cheaper fuel – 19%
  • thought they could reach their destination – 13%
  • didn't have enough money for fuel – 9%
  • didn't notice fuel was running out – 8%
  • couldn't find a filling station – 6%

AA comment

Commenting, Edmund King, AA present said:"The high cost of fuel over the last 12 months means that more drivers have been running on empty. This week's record rebound in the price of oil raises the spectre again.

"Drivers need to remember that £40 worth of fuel will get them one third less distance than it did the same time last year. Drivers running on fumes need to remember that a breakdown in the middle of nowhere could turn out more costly than a few litres of fuel – particularly if a car is towed away to a safer location by a road authority firm, costing as much as £150."

Regionally, drivers in Northern Ireland (35%) and the North West (22%) are the most likely to run of fuel. The Northern Irish (73%) are also the most likely to buy fuel when their tank is nearly empty or running on red. The next most likely are drivers in the North East (61%).

AA patrol of the year, Andy Taylor, said: "Running out of fuel can be dangerous as drivers never know when they will stop – it's often on unsafe locations like hills, roundabouts or, worse still, in moving traffic on the motorway.

"It can cause damage too, especially in diesel cars, as the diesel helps lubricate the fuel pump. If you find it happens unexpectedly, it might be worth getting your fuel gauge checked, as they can be inaccurate, and some cars need as much as 20 litres of fuel just to start."


AA Populus panel poll of 12,146 members conducted between 8 and 14 August 2008.

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25 September 2008