/ Money, Motoring

Should the government rethink its planned fuel duty rise?

Fuel price sign saying 'Arm and leg'

Today the House of Commons will discuss whether or not to go ahead with the planned 3p fuel duty rise in January. It’s a price rise that could be the last straw for many struggling households.

There’s no doubt that a 3p rise in fuel duty would hit millions of hard-up consumers with the most unwelcome New Year’s present imaginable.

At Which? we’ve been monitoring consumer trends, and we know that fuel prices are now the number one consumer worry. In fact, fears about rising fuel costs have risen by 9% since July, to a record figure of 85%.

Nearly four out of 10 people said they’re trying to cut back on car running costs, and one in 10 admitted that they’ve had to dip into their savings to pay for car costs in September.

Cutting back on car costs

I know just how they feel. I’m also looking for ways to cut back on spending money on my car. In September I had to make twice weekly trips from one side of Kent to the other. I soon realised that if I did the motorway stint at 60mph instead of my usual 70mph I could save £10 on fuel for each return trip.

I’ve had to look for cheaper ways of getting my car fixed too. Faced with a £120 bill for getting a new headlight fitted by a local garage, I found myself hanging around in a Halfords car park on Saturday afternoon, hoping to take up their offer of fitting any bulb for £5.

I wasn’t in luck on the day, as they were too busy to fit my car in, but I’ll be dropping my car off there soon to get the bulb replaced on the cheap.

Families can’t afford a fuel duty rise

Still, I’m in a far more stable position than thousands of other people right now – putting up fuel prices could be the final straw for many families struggling to buy food, heat their homes and pay their mortgages. Overall household budgets are under huge strain at the moment – our Monthly Consumer Tracker found that 8.7m households curbed their spending on essentials last month.

The government needs to focus on putting money back in their pockets, rather than increasing fuel duty. Struggling families need a helping hand at the moment, and another financial blow could finish them off. Does the government need to rethink the planned fuel duty rise in January?


“Faced with a £120 bill for getting a new headlight fitted by a local garage, I found myself hanging around in a Halfords car park on Saturday afternoon, hoping to take up their offer of fitting any bulb for £5.”
If you just need a new bulb fitting then I’m surprised you havent shopped around the local independent garages !!
On the other hand if you really need a new headlight then getting a new bulb fitted at Halfords isnt going to help.
Driving around with a non-functioning headlight is not something you can leave to be sorted out “soon” .
However your comments about saving fuel by driving slower and smoother are spot-on.


Halfords currently charge £6.99 to fit a headlight bulb. That is a bit expensive if this is an easy job and an absolute bargain if it involves a major dismantling job. In the latter case they might not take on the job or offer a refund of the fitting charge. It is absolutely disgraceful that manufacturers make it so difficult to change bulbs. It should be easy to do and not require any tools.

To say something relevant, I hope that the increase in price of fuel will encourage us to use less. Car sharing and combining journeys are well worthwhile.


On my previous car, the main dealer wanted to charge me £70 to fit a headlight bulb, no way was I going to pay that.

I also went to Halfords, and they refused to do it, because it was too difficult, going beyond the simple service they were offering.

In the end I googled the procedure, and did it myself. It invoved removing the battery, the grille, many screws and pins, before evenutally sliding out the entire headlight, when I could then gain access.

This is absolutely ridiculous. manufacturers should be forced to make bulbs changes easy, so that it can be done by anyone at the roadside in minutes.


Whilst raising the price of fuel, the government will receive less from it as people use less. However, this is their only measure to satisfy the green lobby. Many pensions are dependent on oil company profits and as people use less, pensions will also lose value. Couple that with inflation and people like me don’t forsee a prosperous future.

For once though, would it be possible to say “hard-working people” rather than “hard-working families”? To say that families are more important than single people is discriminatory. You see it in all news outlets and personally I think it’s unfair.

Arebee says:
13 November 2012

George Osborne would argue that the government needs the additional money from fuel duty to reduce the deficit. Why doesn’t he tackle tax avoidance by the likes of Starbucks, Amazon and Google to achieve this?

NukeThemAll says:
14 November 2012

Assuming the government wish to raise a certain amount of money via taxation, deferring the rise in fuel duty will merely spawn another tax rise elsewhere: someone’s gain is someone else’s loss.

I also wonder if those who complain have already tried some simple fuel-saving techniques which, if applied, would more than offset the cost – and I don’t mean crawling along at 20mph under the speed limit. In my part of the country (the SE) the mode of driving that most adopt certainly leaves much to be desired from a fuel economy stance.

And has anyone noticed that the bigger/more gas guzzling the vehicle, the more furiously it’s driven?

NukeThemAll says:
14 November 2012

And another thing…..Claire, you do realise that knowingly driving with defective lights is illegal? If the Police stop you, they won’t be impressed with “I was going to get it fixed but I’m still deciding on where the cheapest place is.”

par ailleurs says:
14 November 2012

3p might not sound a lot but it soon adds up to those who absolutely have to use a car.
I often hear some people (usually young, fit, single city dwellers) extolling the virtues of cycling and public transport. All well and good if that works for you. Lots of us are (a) no longer fit enough to cycle (b) nowhere near an efficient public transport system. You don’t need to travel far out of the big cities for public transport to be both expensive and very infrequent if available at all.
I’m sure lots of people will eventually change their cars for more efficient newer models but until the old one gives up the ghost it’s more cost effective to keep it running.
Naturally, using sensible driving techniques will help a lot as will keeping the car properly serviced.
I don’t think there’s much to be done to encourage people into economical cars though. Let’s face it if you can afford a new 20mpg or less large car then 3p on a litre of petrol is neither here nor there. The swingeing road fund tax for these vehicles is a drop in the ocean too for their owners or they wouldn’t have bought them in the first place. The 3p is just punishing more folk who have no choice but to drive but who don’t earn huge wages.