After three months of fuel prices constantly climbing to new record levels, April finally brought a break in the cycle of ever-increasing pain at the pumps, new RAC Fuel Watch data reveals.
The average price of petrol dropped by 0.5p to 162.75p a litre over the course of the month while diesel stayed the same at 177p (177.44p on 1 April and 177.31p on 30 April). Petrol is now 4.5p a litre lower than the record high of 167.3p set on 22 March while diesel is 2.5p below 179.9p recorded on 23 March.
This means the cost of filling a 55-litre family car from empty is 50p less than it was at the start of the month at £89.51 while diesel still costs £97 for a full tank. Using the notional figure of 40mpg the RAC has calculated that every mile is now costing petrol car drivers 18.5p and diesel drivers nearly 20p.
While the price of oil dropped under $100 three times in April the barrel price finished only slightly higher than it started the month at $108.62 ($107.52 on 1 April). Unfortunately for drivers though, the pound lost ground on the dollar, falling from $1.3 to $1.25 over the month which makes wholesale fuel more expensive for retailers to buy as fuel is traded in dollars.
RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said:
“After three months of nightmarish price rises, April finally saw an end to seemingly endless forecourt hikes.
“Although the price of oil has cooled considerably, there’s still plenty of uncertainty in the market which is leading to prices jumping around a lot. This coupled with the exchange rate worsening isn’t good for drivers and news that the EU is planning to phase out Russian oil is likely to cause the barrel price to rise.
“However, retailers really should have passed on the savings they were benefitting from when wholesale prices were lower earlier in April; sadly for drivers this didn’t happen. Instead, the biggest retailers, which buy most frequently held out, protecting themselves from future rises. They will no doubt feel they were justified in not lowering their forecourt prices as wholesale costs are now rising again, in part due to the pound losing ground on the dollar, making it more expensive for retailers when they buy new stock.
“It’s also very much the case that retailers’ margins were far higher in April than they were in March. RAC Fuel Watch data estimates they took around 4p more a litre than they did over the course of the previous month. This will surely be a disappointment to the Chancellor who cut fuel duty by 5p a litre in the Spring Statement.”
The average price of a litre of fuel on the motorway rose by nearly a penny a litre with petrol going up 0.67p to 182.08p and diesel 0.83p to 192.34p. The lowest priced petrol at the big four supermarkets was 159.38p at Asda, closely followed by Morrisons and Sainsbury’s which were both under 160p. Asda also had the cheapest diesel at an average of 173.12p across its sites – half a penny lower than Morrisons.
The RAC website carries an ultimate guide to saving fuel and saving money.