/ 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.

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?

John says:
7 January 2011

I saw these rises coming and I have already bought a smaller car due to the price of fuel so although I will continue to drive I will be using a lot less fuel, and, consequently, paying a lot less tax. The motorist is, and always has been a cash cow for the Government but I think the general public has never been nearer a national fuel revolt. Fuel is taxed twice (VAT and Fuel Duty) and they even add the Fuel Duty BEFORE adding the VAT so we are being effectively triple whacked! Something needs to be done about it and the Government could start by dictating the maximum price at every pump across the country to stop greedy garages ripping people off.

Losjkie says:
7 January 2011

I HAVE to use my private car for work travelling around rural S Scotland, carrying equipment. There is no alternative. Sometimes I have to go farther afield at short notice. For work I cover approx 12000m per year on rough rural roads, my car gets dirtier than most and wear rate may be increased.
I am paid a mileage rate set down by HMRC currently 40 pence per mile which drops to 25p after 10000 miles. This rate has been the same for at least 9 years. This is a true injustice and means that I am subsidising my employers business.
What should one do?

Losjkie says:
7 January 2011

How would electric cars have coped in the last 3 weeks with minus 12 temps and traffic jams caused by snow.
Very poorly I imagine.

Jazzy Fizzles says:
10 January 2011

Poorly – battery capacity falls with a drop in temperature!

Mike says:
7 January 2011

The effect of the VAT +DUTY rise has only reinforced my view that this is a high cost Country. Rises are needed to fund various social schemes, some worthwhile, some not. The working man will never be allowed to get much more than one step ahead of his grandparents. Class has been the undoing of these islands and the current political direction does not augur well for any improvement soon. We need a completely new direction,a radical overhaul of the civil service , less government, fewer, more effective councils, fewer taxes, a much improved public transport system, banks and other large corporations who will either sink or swim without recourse to public funds. If you are at the point of leaving university seriously consider emigration. There is no future here. No chance of a home. No chance of a mortgage. Time the children were fetched back to sweep chimneys.

Mike says:
7 January 2011

In reply to ‘how would electric cars have coped these past few weeks?’ The short answer is they wouldn’t. You would have been marooned wherever, with no hope of using the vehicle as a warm refuge. No power-No heat. I believe I am correct in stating that as temperature falls below zero so does the remaining range the vehicle can travel. This is one the green brigade have conveniently overlooked.

Mike says:
7 January 2011

Buy a pre 1972 registered 4 x 4 (usually a land rover) enjoy free road tax, drive it on classic insurance and have fun occasionally. You then have the major benefit of a useful vehicle in winter without the heavy running costs associated with it being the primary means of transport.

I will still use the car – I have a disabled husband. But nowadays we don’t go out every day and plan journeys into “round trips”, so if I’m visiting my grandchildren, I will get the shopping, go to the bank, collect prescriptions and post my parcel at the Post Office while I’m out. The car gets filled fortnightly now instead of weekly.

Keith Merry says:
8 January 2011

Why does the government allow the petrol companies to make such enormous profits each year? There is no need for the petrol prices to be so high, let the fat cats manage with a little less.

The vast majority of the price of fuel is TAX – it goes straight to the government. The profits made by the fuel companies are low in comparison. What we need is the fuel tax adjuster promised by the CONDEMS – but like everything else they’ve promised we won’t get.

Ellis Corlett says:
9 January 2011

A significant number of drivers have to use their cars for work and have no alternative but to pay up at the pumps.
Each time you fill up you are paying 21p in VAT and 59p in fuel duty, ie 63.5% of the total price of a litre of unleaded. Unfortunately, you have no alternative but pay up and grin and bear it.
What irritates me is when you look at what fuel costs abroad. In the USA the average cost of a litre of unleaded is between 49p and 56p a litre. If Americans were charged £1.30/litre tomorrow there would be riots in the streets!
Check out this link for comparative costs of fuel worldwide:-
It is tempting to conclude that the government views drivers as a soft touch for tax raising.
However, the rises in fuel tax are couched in terms of discouraging drivers from using their cars and thereby benefitting the environment. On a global scale it would be far more beneficial if this philosophy was applied worldwide, especially in the States where fuel prices are less than half UK prices.

Fuel prices have been in the headlines recently because of the VAT and duty increases. What I find strange is that the increase in diesel prices relative to petrol have been totally ignored. Diesel historically was always about 2p per litre less that petrol, now diesel is about 5p per litre more that petrol, a 7p per litre difference. I have seen nothing in the media questioning this. My only thought is that petrol companies are increasing diesel prices more that petrol because diesel drivers can get more mpg. Grateful if anyone can explain if there is a justifiable reason or if they concur the petrol companies are simply profiteering. The fact that all petrol companies are charging the same higher price for diesel implies to me that there is a cartel (of some sort) in operation.

AMDP says:
9 January 2011

Where I live ( on a Scottish Island) a car is essential – I have to travel 12 miles for all shopping and petrol which is now (8/01/11)£138.5 We are one of the Islands which have been left out of the proposals of a reduction in duty for Islands, they included the Scillies but the Clyde Islands have been excluded. What can we do?

We also have no choice but to use our cars as we stay in a very rural location. Filling the fuel tank with diesel is a frightening experience and becoming worse each time. 🙁
If we had an alternative, we would certainly use. However, the oil companies and the Government have us over a barrel!

As usual, the ordinary person – they do exist – finds himself at the confluence of multiple opposing forces, and is castigated for the decisions he makes in order to accommodate them. Modern society has been built around the availability, indeed the requirement, for personal mobility. If this structure is now deemed invalid, it will require more than the constant threat of more expense to divert its headlong rush away from the ‘right’ path.

* The motor manufacturer demands that he buy their product. The economy, and what manufacturing we have, have a great reliance upon the sale of motor vehicles.

* Local authorities permit and encourage the creation of shopping complexes, supermarkets and business parks. These are often out of town.

* Few go to shopping complexes and supermarkets with the intention of purchasing only one or two items – illogical captain. The prospect of taking several bags of heavy shopping home on public transport does not appeal.

* Rather like watching wildlife programs on the television, local authorities behave as if the demise of the endangered local shopping parades is nothing to do with them.

* Business parks are located such that a motor car is by far the most sensible means of commuting. Businesses themselves are seldom concerned with the travelling requirements of their employees.

* The dispersion of businesses in general, and the price of housing, both purchased and rented, make it impossible to simply position yourself close to your place of work. (Add to this the need for good schooling and the whole affair becomes, at the very least, a reluctant compromise.)

* The ‘green lobby’, if I might generalise, repeat the mantra – ‘We need to encourage alternatives to car use’. Gentle word ‘encourage’, no doubt it is widely used in Guantanamo Bay. Ken Livingstone probably repeated it one hundred times before going to sleep. One dictionary definition is – To stimulate by assistance. I see little evidence of this meaning in practice. Rather it is being equated to force or coerce.

I recall a time in my childhood when we could all play in the street, moving back from time-to-time to allow a coal lorry to pass. My mother would walk to the local shops every few days for groceries. Those days have sadly gone. But if we are to be serious about reducing the glut of motor vehicles in our environment, an all encompassing and well-thought-out plan is required if we are not to simply have the same as today only much more expensive.

As the saying goes – If you carry on the way you’re going, what you’re going to get is what you’ve got.