/ Money, Motoring

Will rising fuel prices stop you driving?

Business man cycling to work

Two fuel price rises in under a week mean that motorists are having to tighten their purse strings. But the RAC Foundation reckons the increase could put people off driving altogether. Will you scrap your car this year?

The official line from the RAC Foundation’s director, Stephen Glaister, was:

‘If the nation’s 34 million motorists are pushed too far they will drive less and the Treasury could actually see their tax take fall.’

So have the latest petrol price rises affected how often you drive? Past increases have shown that it can actually have a massive effect.

A quarter stop using the car for school runs

When fuel prices were at their highest in the summer of 2008, a survey commissioned by The Times found that a quarter of parents stopped using the car for the school run. And a total of 29% motorists said they stopped making out-of-town trips to go shopping.

Will we see a repeat of this with the latest hikes in petrol and diesel costs? I think so. I’ve already noticed that the roads have been quieter in the last few days, though that could of course be due to extended winter holidays.

But what about those who can’t afford not to drive? Personally, I need to make a daily 20 mile round trip to my nearest train station for my commute to work. I leave at a time when there are no busses and a taxi would prove too expensive. Plus, I’d collapse on my desk from exhaustion if I had to ride a bicycle to and from the station. So I grin and bare the cost of running my car.

Is there really a ‘war on motorists’?

Many were angered by local government secretary Eric Pickles’ comments this week. He talked about ‘an end to the war on motorists’ when announcing eased parking charges and restrictions in new housing developments.

I don’t think he was taking into account the fact that motorists were reeling from predicted fuel price increases in the region of 3.5p a litre that were about to hit them.

In all honesty, I don’t think there is a war on motorists, I think there’s a war on travel as a whole. As we know, train fares have soared this month, with some travelcard prices increasing in the region of 15%.

I opted to park at Peterborough train station yesterday instead of my local station, and it cost £13 for five to 24 hours! I was half expecting the car to have had a full wash and valet.

So for me, the answer to my initial question is no. I will continue to drive and travel everyday as normal, in spite of the rising prices. However, I do query whether we’re expected to move closer to work with the cost of travel being as it is.

Will rising fuel prices stop you from driving?

No, I rely on my car (76%, 646 Votes)

Yes, I'll find other ways to get around (18%, 150 Votes)

I don't drive anyway (7%, 56 Votes)

Total Voters: 852

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I don’t have a driving licence, so I’m not the right person to ask – but I am intrigued as to whether these fuel increases will prompt people who do rely on their car to buy an electric car instead.

Jazzy Fizzles says:
7 January 2011

Until the UK changes how the majority of it’s electricity is produced to green alternatives, getting an electric car just moves the pollution from the car to the power station. Added to that, each energy conversion process has in-efficiencies, so an electric car using electricity generated from coal may actually be worse for the environment than a petrol / diesel car.
…and that’s not taking into account the energy required to produce a new car….


At the moment, cost-efficiency for the motorist using an electric car depends a lot on government help and subsidy. The charge of a few pence for a ‘tankful’ of electric power is the main draw, not being Green. In fact, if you take into account the manufacturing costs and final disposal costs, it’s greener to use an old banger like my 10-year-old Mondeo with its inefficiencies for another – what, ten? – years than to replace it with an electric car like the Leaf. Though the actual cost to the driver may be less with the Leaf.


As I understand it, there are not enough re-charging points to make electric cars practical unless you only travel the same route close to a point.

Long term if electric cars became practical and popular, all the current road and fuel taxes will be transfered to them, so it will not be any cheaper.


Electic cars cost a fortune, they have a very poor range, the batteries go pop after only a couple of years, they take ten hours to recharge, the electricity to charge them still mostly comes from burning fossil fuels and if there were millions of them the national grid simply could not cope.
Need I go on?

Craig says:
6 January 2011

I think that if these rises encourage people to rely less on their cars, especially for shorter journeys, then it can be a fairly positive thing. Perhaps people should consider that fuel is likely to get more expensive in future and plan accordingly. For example, the last time I moved house was to be within walking distance of a train station so that now I only use my car a couple of times per week.


Craig, I’m actually going to look at a house next week which is a two minute walk from the station, so I could be following in your footsteps. Then, ideally, I would sell my car, stop paying running costs, insurance and tax, share a car with the girlfriend and save myself a packet. But it’s difficult weighing up saving money and losing that bit of freedom.

Ray Kelly says:
7 January 2011

Government are pushing the motorist to look towards electric vehicle’s and by doing so they are prepared to spend millions on charging posts/stations etc all over the uk, really are they expecting the average working class to purchase such vehicles at around £25,000 even with the government subsidy.Not only will the average person struggle to own such vehicle but those that can afford them will soon find that the cost to charge them will rise again and again and again to pay for the charging facillities just like the fuel, will they abolish parking fines for those that batteries go flat.Lets get real the government will keep rising costs for running vehicles as they are a necessity for all.

Jazzy Fizzles says:
7 January 2011

Electric cars are no good for rural users!


There is no way I can afford £23,000 for an electric car – All the petrol price rise will do is stop me buying a newer petrol car to keep my overall costs down. I’ll use the old one for longer.

Jazzy Fizzles says:
7 January 2011

Being a rural user I can’t live without a car, so to save transport costs, I’ve bought a second hand Skoda Felicia 1.9 Diesel (it’s got the the VW diesel engine). Paid £500 for it – if I drive it upto 2000rpm in each gear, and don’t exceed 55mph I can easily get 60+MPG.


I’ve just voted in the survey that “rising fuel prices won’t stop me using the car because I rely on it”. That’s not really true though. I won’t stop using the car BECAUSE I ENJOY DRIVING IT.

If people could just get away from the penny-pinching belief that a car should be as cheap as possible to run, and move into a mindset where if you buy a powerful luxury car you might just love to drive it for its smooth performance, executive comfort, space, prestige and thrills, they they might just be able to stop complaining.

If you put £1000 of petrol a year into a cheap trashy tin box, you’ve wasted your money.
If you put £2000 of petrol a year into a luxury car, you can enjoy yourself every time you drive it.


Well that’s fine and dandy IF you can afford to buy and run an expensive luxury gas-guzzler for its feel-good qualities.

The comfortably-off will continue to be able to drive such vehicles, regardless of fuel rises. It’s all the poor people who need to drive, but are running out of the money to afford to, that are suffering hugely – like me. There are an awful lot of us who need to find money for more than just enjoying the (surely increasingly limited) pleasures of motoring.

If only we all had the means to make such self-centered life choices….. I’m all right, Jack, eh?