Fuel costs are same as in ’80s – shouldn’t we be happy?
The price of petrol might be escalating, but are we really paying more for fuel than ever before? Our research found fuel costs are almost on par with 30 years ago, so should we be complaining?
The Which? Car team investigated the cost of fuel and found that the annual cost for the average motorist has risen only by just over £100 since 1980.
That’s because the vehicles we drive today are more efficient than ever before, meaning the amount of fuel we pump into our cars on the forecourt goes a lot further than it did 30 years ago. So are we really justified in being outraged by the recent peak in petrol prices?
How we compared and contrasted
You’ll probably be asking how we conducted our research, so here’s the lowdown:
- We compared the 1980 Ford Cortina 2.0-litre petrol with a 2011 Ford Mondeo 2.0-litre petrol – two family car favourites separated by three decades.
- The Cortina, averaging 27 mile per gallon (mpg), with petrol costs at 28p a litre in 1980, would cost a motorist £1,889 a year to fuel, when adjusted for inflation and based on the UK average of 12,000 miles a year.
- The modern-day Mondeo 2.0-litre averaged 34.9mpg in the Which? Car test, resulting in an annual fuel spend of £1,915. That’s based on petrol costing £1.29 a litre, as it did when we crunched the numbers in mid-February – but even at today’s average of £1.33, the annual spend is £2,081.
So ultimately, the difference in yearly fuel bills is somewhere between £100 and £200.
Shop around to save
Coincidentally, we also found that you can save more than £200 a year if you choose to fill up at the cheapest locations.
‘Shopping around’ is a term widely used when it comes to money saving, but our investigation found that it really does make a big difference to your annual fuel bills. We found that supermarket brands are generally cheapest, especially Asda, while, on average, BP was the most expensive place to fill up. That certainly tallies with my experiences – how about you?
Should we accept rising fuel prices?
Bearing all of this in mind, will the results of our research ease motorists’ frustrations at high fuel costs? Of course not – if anything, we know it will stick in the craw of hard-pressed drivers.
So what do we want to happen as a result?
Which? is backing the AA’s call for the government to publish a price tracker comparing wholesale and pump prices. Offering transparency on retailers’ pump pricing should promote more local competition, and help drivers to shop around for the best deals. It’ll help all of us know when forecourt prices aren’t responding to drops in wholesale oil prices.
It could be easy to look at the results of our investigation and think the recent spike in fuel prices may not be as bad as we first presumed – but it is.
The only saving grace is the improved fuel economy of today’s cars, which is helping to offset rising oil prices. The question is, how long have we got before the rising oil price really outstrips the pace of technological advances?
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