Petrol prices: UK pumps hit all-time high

Published: 17 May 2022

► Petrol and diesel prices are at their highest ever
► Pump price for DERV passes £1.80 per litre
► Possible EU ban on Russian oil and gas could push prices higher

The cost of petrol is heading for a new UK record while diesel breaks the previous high, as war in Ukraine and supply issues pushes pump prices ever closer to £2 per litre in the most expensive forecourts.

Nationwide, the average cost of a litre of unleaded is now £1.67, with diesel spiralling to £1.80 – and there are numerous tales on social media of costs passing the two pound barrier. More worrying than that, economists are predicting that the rises will continue if an EU-wide ban on Russian oil and gas comes into force.

Supply chains are reeling after the invasion of Ukraine, with European energy costs spiking as oil and gas from Russia come under pressure. 

The RAC Foundation calculates the UK average on 17 May was:

  • Unleaded £1.67 a litre
  • Diesel £1.80 a litre

The RAC’s fuel spokesperson, Simon Williams, said: ‘Unfortunately, drivers with diesel vehicles need to brace themselves for yet more pain at the pumps. Had Mr Sunak reduced VAT to 15% as we call on him to do instead of cutting duty by 5p, drivers of diesel vehicles would be around 2p a litre better off, or £1 for every full tank.

‘As it is, drivers are still paying 27p VAT on petrol and 29p on diesel, which is just the same as before the spring statement. While the wholesale price has eased in the last few days, this is likely to be temporary, especially if the EU agrees to ban imports of Russian oil.’

UK petrol prices hit record high

Why are fuel prices so high in 2022?

A vicious combination of war in Ukraine, Brexit and the aftermath of the global pandemic have pushed the cost of a barrel of Brent crude to a 14-year high of $139 a barrel in early March.

He added: ‘With inflation hitting household budgets on all sides the fact that transport is routinely the single biggest area of household expenditure, according to Government statistics, will make forecourt price hikes particularly hard because for most households those transport costs are associated with running a car.

‘While higher pump prices may make more people consider switching to electric cars that’s not a realistic overnight fix. In the short term the best most of us can do is look for ways to drive less, perhaps by sharing trips, perhaps by building on two years of covid restrictions to work from home, and when we do drive to go easy on the throttle.’

UK petrol prices: at a record high

The May 2022 peak comes after years of sustained increases, charted by the RAC’s Fuel Watch, a study which collects data from across the UK (below), including retail, wholesale and supermarket pumps.

What can you do right now?

Driving more economically will alleviate the pain somewhat, as will moving to a more economical ICE or hybrid car. If your usage suits, it may even be worth switching to an electric car, which have cheaper running costs.

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By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast