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Motorist misery as petrol and diesel pump prices go on the rise again

Updated: Apr 8

Motorists across the UK have felt the pinch at the pumps as March saw petrol prices climb nearly 2p per litre, with data from RAC Fuel Watch highlighting a nearly 6p increase since the beginning of the year.

The average price for petrol now stands at 146.48p per litre, up from 144.62p, while diesel prices have also risen over a penny to 155.99p per litre from 154.68p, marking the third consecutive month of increases.

The surge in prices has led to a full 55-litre tank of petrol now costing motorists £80.56, an increase of £1, and diesel tank fill-ups rising to £85.79, up by 72p. The driving force behind these price hikes has been attributed to a 5% rise in oil prices, compounded by a significant uptick in US demand for petrol as the summer season approaches. This demand has pushed the wholesale price of unleaded petrol to near parity with diesel, setting the stage for a potential narrowing of the price gap at the forecourts. In addition to these pressures, UK fuel retailers have seen their margins squeezed.

The average retailer margin for unleaded has fallen to 8p per litre, down from 10.5p at the start of March, though the margin on diesel has seen a slight increase to 11p per litre.

A closer look at the UK’s supermarket fuel retailers reveals a varied landscape. Tesco offered the cheapest unleaded at 142.7p per litre across its 511 forecourts at the end of March, with Asda's prices peaking at 145p per litre. Notably, Asda also displayed a significant 33p disparity in petrol prices across its locations. The lowest price was found at 139.7p at nine forecourts, while the highest soared to 172.9p at a Shell-branded site it operates.

Comparatively, Sainsbury's and Tesco are neck-and-neck for the most affordable diesel, with prices averaging around 151.7p and 151.8p per litre, respectively. In contrast, price disparities are stark among the bigger brands, with BP and Shell forecourts reporting differences of up to 27p and 26p for unleaded, and 30p and 26p for diesel, respectively.

This latest round of fuel price increases highlights the fluctuating nature of global oil prices and its direct impact on UK motorists. With the summer season on the horizon and demand expected to rise, the situation at the pumps remains one to watch.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “The rising cost of oil, combined with the pound still only being worth a meagre $1.3, has led to another month of misery at the pumps with the price of petrol going up 2p a litre. Sadly, this means the average price of petrol has gone up nearly 6p so far this year.

“The RAC’s analysis of the fuel price data being compiled by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) shows that Asda is no longer the cheapest retailer as, at the end of March, Tesco had the lowest average petrol price across its 511 forecourts. It was also joint cheapest for diesel with Sainsbury’s.

“The data also reveals that Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons only offer their cheapest prices at one or two stores whereas Tesco offers it at around 30 forecourts, albeit at a slightly higher cost. Its customers also have the comfort of knowing that there’s only 6p difference between its lowest and highest prices.

“Sadly, Asda appears not to be the force it once was in fuel retailing. Gone are the days when it used to announce big headline-grabbing pump price cuts when wholesale prices fell, along with a promise at the time that drivers would never pay more than a certain low price at any of its forecourts.

“The data from the competition watchdog also highlights the wildly different prices BP and Shell charge at the forecourts they own and run. Worryingly, there is sometimes as much as 30p between their high and low prices. We badly need to see an end to this practice as this postcode lottery is extremely unfair on drivers. Those who want to make sure they get the best price should download the free myRAC app and start using its fuel finder feature.

“On a more positive note, it’s good to see the average retailer margin on petrol come down from 10.5p a litre at the start of March to under 8p. While the cause is most likely to be the increase in the wholesale price of petrol, it could also be due to the CMA again raising concerns about higher retailer margins very publicly just last week.”


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