As a motorist, you may be enjoying cheap petrol and diesel, but it’s important not to get complacent. The cost of oil will rise again at some point, meaning pump prices will go up again.
In mid-January, supermarkets started selling diesel at below £1 a litre, its lowest level for more than six years. This move came around a month after Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco all began offering petrol for less than £1 a litre.
The fall in prices reflects the lower cost of oil – Brent crude oil hit a 12-year low on 20 January – with prices dropping to below $27 a barrel. That said, by the end of the month, oil had returned to above $35 a barrel, as speculation grew over a deal to cut supplies.
“As of the end of January, data from RAC Fuel Watch shows the average price of a litre of unleaded petrol was around 102p, and diesel 101p,” says RAC fuel spokesman, Simon Williams.
“Compared to the same time in 2015, that made petrol prices around 4p cheaper at the pumps, and diesel prices some 12p cheaper. The price of fuel on wholesale markets has fallen, driven by the very low oil price.”
While most experts predict petrol and diesel prices will remain relatively low through 2016, Mr Williams warns that prices will have to rise at some point.
“Much depends on the actions of the main oil- producing nations, which are members of OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), and which collectively produce more than 40% of the world’s oil,” he says. “OPEC’s recent strategy has been to flood the market with oil in order to retain market share; this has had the effect of keeping prices low. A reversal of this policy would be one of the major reasons oil prices could start to recover again. If this were to happen, the wholesale prices of petrol would react with a rise, something fuel retailers would have to reflect in the prices they charge motorists at the pumps.”
So it’s worth taking all the steps you can now to keep a lid on fuel costs.
Shop around for the cheapest fuel
Petrol prices at the forecourt vary a lot; stations situated on motorways or at airports usually have the highest charges, as can those in rural locations. To find the lowest prices locally, enter your postcode
The AA also has an app that you can use to find the cheapest fuel in your area, along with directions to the station you select; visit Theaa.com/apps/index.html.
But don’t drive too far out of your way for a cheaper pump as it could be a false economy. Price comparison site MoneySuperMarket.com found that bargain-hunting motorists could be throwing away almost £528 million every month by doing this.
Dan Plant, consumer expert at MoneySuperMarket.com, says: “To work out whether the detour is worth it, use our quick ‘two-for-one rule’. This means never travelling more than two extra miles to hunt out each 1p per litre saving.”
Play your cards right
Cut costs by using a credit card that offers cashback on fuel. With the Santander 123 card, you can earn 3% cashback on petrol at most fuel stations, while the AA FuelSave card offers up to 4% cashback at the pump.
While Amex does not offer cashback specifically on fuel, it’s also worth a look as it offers a very competitive rate of 5% cashback on spends in the first three months – giving your fuel spend an extra boost.
Drive more slowly
The faster you go, the more fuel your car guzzles, so drive more slowly – especially on motorways.
“Cruising at 80mph will use up to 25% more fuel than cruising at 70mph, while keeping your speed down to 60mph will save 9% more than at 70mph,” says Ian Crowder from the AA. “This means you could potentially save a third of your bill if you cut your cruising speed from 80mph to 60mph.”
Drive more smoothly
“Constantly accelerating and braking harshly means your engine needs to work harder, and as a result, uses more fuel,” says Matt Oliver from price comparison site, Gocompare.com. “The trick is to drive at a consistent speed, accelerating and braking steadily. Fuel consumption tends to increase when your car exceeds 2,000 to 2,500 revs, depending on the vehicle, so it’s important to make sure you are in an appropriate gear.”
Keep your car in tip-top condition
Having your car serviced regularly will ensure the engine runs efficiently, and save you money on fuel costs, according to Lucy Burnford, director of Automyze, the vehicle personal assistant service. “A basic service will provide the engine with clean oil and a fresh filter, allowing your car to run more smoothly,” she says. “You should also look to check your oil at least once a week.”
David Bruce, director of the AA’s mobile tyre-fitting service, AA Tyres, adds that under-inflated tyres will raise your fuel consumption, as the engine will need to work harder. “Check them regularly to ensure you are topped up to the manufacturer’s recommended levels,” he says.
Lighten your load
“Carry out an early spring-clean of items you no longer need in your boot and glove box,” says Mr Oliver. “Also remove roof racks and storage boxes when they’re not being used. Cutting the weight carried in your car can have a significant impact on the amount of fuel you use.”
Five fuel-saving tips
- Switch to a smaller and more fuel- efficient car.
- Try to avoid using air con if you are driving at low speeds (under 40mph) as this will increase fuel consumption; open a window instead. But if you’re going fast, driving with the windows down will increase the drag – so switch back to air con if you need to stay cool.
- Turn off your engine if you’ve stopped for a minute or longer.
- Find like-minded passengers to contribute to the cost of petrol by posting details of upcoming journeys on ride-sharing websites, such as Blablacar.co.uk.
- Share the cost of owning a car through a service such as Zipcar.co.uk or DriveNow (Uk.drive-now.com).