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UK fuel prices are about to hit drivers in the pay packet again

Spike in cost of oil barrel price in February has pushed prices at the pumps back up

Published: 05 Mar 2024

The UK's petrol and diesel prices are heading north again. It's all down to the cost of brent crude oil topping out at $80 per barrel and staying there all the way through February. It's meant the price of petrol rose four pence per litre, while diesel increased almost five pence, according to the RAC Fuelwatch data.

Fuel prices might have dipped in the post-Christmas haze of January, posting lows of £1.39 for petrol at one point, but the latest average prices for petrol sit at £1.44 and diesel at £1.52, according to RAC Fuel Watch data.

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concluded in a July 2023 report that drivers were overcharged by some £900m in 2022. As a result, the data from the RAC has been laid out differently to show the (often) jaw-dropping differences in pricing across the UK. Between the highest and the lowest prices, even within one brand of fuel provider, the difference per litre can be as much as 30p. Ouch.

Simon Williams, spokesperson for RAC Fuelwatch, said: “Our data shows that in February, drivers endured the highest monthly average fuel price increases since September 2023. Diesel’s 4.7p rise was the 14th largest and the 4p that went on to petrol was the 17th biggest increase since the start of the century.

“What’s especially galling is the continuing difference in price between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. On average fuel is 5p cheaper there, with big retailers appearing happy to operate on thinner margins per litre.

“Looking at average margins across the whole of the UK, retailers are currently taking around 10p a litre on average across both petrol and diesel. The supermarkets in particular have now noticeably upped their margins to 8p a litre compared to 6p in 2019. Luckily for drivers, this is lower than the last two years when it was around 9.5p.

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“When analysing the supermarkets’ prices via the Competition and Markets Authority open data scheme, it is also very clear there are some big differences between the cheapest and most expensive prices charged for both petrol and diesel. Frighteningly, at the end of February there was an 18p difference between the country’s cheapest supermarket unleaded and the dearest, and for diesel it was 21p. To put this into a context, it means the cost of filling a family-sized car can be up to £10 more expensive in one part of the country than another. It’s important to remember this is the very same product being charged at vastly different prices based just on location.

“We hope that the eventual introduction of the monitoring body recommended by the Competition and Markets Authority will help to bring an end to this postcode lottery that treats drivers so unfairly.”

Northern Ireland's fuel market isn't dominated by the big supermarket retailers, meaning it offers an arguably better indication of where fuel prices should be sitting at any given time.

How much is petrol in the UK today?

It depends. Top Gear keeps you posted on the latest fuel prices - stay tuned - but the RAC Fuel Watch alert is also a good resource. The prices of petrol fluctuate based on the price of oil. It's a long (and frankly, boring) story, so we'll keep it short.

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Crude Oil +

Delivery (not Amazon Prime, sadly, but those trucks don't drive themselves...yet) +

Retailer margin +

Fuel Duty  =

The final fuel price at the pump. It's worth noting that retailer margin is where you'll see the most movement and why one station up the road can differ so greatly from another. 

Are fuel prices coming down in the UK?

Sadly not.

What is the cheapest fuel near me?

After consulting our TG crystal ball, aka The Internet, your best bet for locating the cheapest fuel anywhere in the UK is via the extremely convenient PetrolPrices.com app. It's free to download, you'll need to register, but you can enter any postcode or town and it'll show the local stations and the price at each. You can use filters to locate only specific brands if you have a loyalty card. They've also integrated a comment service, so you can award stars and feedback on each of your fill-ups, if you like. 

Why are UK fuel prices so high?

It's a great question, but it depends on the month you ask it. The ongoing global conflicts continues to have an impact, but lower oil production in the Middle East (i.e. a cap on how much they take out of the ground) and more demand coming from China means price are fluctuating. Other factors, like currency exchange rates, play a role too. 

How much was a litre of petrol in the UK in 2023?

The short answer is 'lower'. The graphs below show how the fuel prices have been tracking over the last few years. 

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