If you go out of your way to find cheap fuel prices, you won’t be alone. Research shows that 42 per cent of drivers buy their fuel purely on cost. As proof, look no further than a Worcestershire garage that has run out of fuel three times in the past two weeks after its manager slashed fuel prices to just £1.09 for a litre of petrol.
Velautham Sarveswaran, manager of the Harvest filling station in Redditch, has had drivers flocking to his pumps ever since his unusually cheap fuel prices came about. But how far can you travel before the holy grail of cheap petrol or diesel actually starts to cost you in extra mileage.
Let’s assume there’s a garage selling petrol at £1.10 a litre. But the garage you normally use prices it at £1.16. At your regular filling station, a £45 fill up would see you getting 38.8 litres of petrol. With the cheap fuel prices you would get 40.9 litres. That’s a difference of just 0.46 of a gallon. In a 45mpg car, that’s 20.7 miles you could drive before going out of your way for the cheaper fuel actually starts to cost you.
But if the price is £1.09 per litre, a £45 fill up would see the driver of a 45mpg car getting 41.3 litres. That’s 0.55 gallons meaning you could drive 24.75 miles out of your way to get the cheaper petrol on offer in Redditch. Drivers of cars with larger fuel tanks such as Range Rovers claim they’re saving around £15 a fill up by using the garage.
The cheap fuel prices have come about because the cost of oil has fallen dramatically. Over the past six months it has dropped by 40 per cent. However, Mr Sarveswaran became frustrated that supermarkets weren’t passing these price cuts onto customers.
Supermarkets are generally regarded as having the cheapest fuel because they usually discount it in a bid to attract drivers who can then be enticed into their stores. According to the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), a body that represents independent filling stations, this is the reason 886 forecourts have closed for business since 2008.
These closures have seen what the PRA talks about as ‘rural fuel deserts’. Brian Madderson, PRA chairman said: “We’re seeing the number of drivers running out increasing because people don’t know how far they have to travel before they get to a fuel station. After leaving Berwick upon Tweed on the A1, you can drive for nearly 60 miles, almost to Edinburgh without coming across a fuel station.”
However, our shopping habits are now changing. People are turning their back on the big weekly shop in favour of doing smaller shops throughout the week. In the first six months of 2014, this has resulted in the volume of fuel sold through the big four supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda) falling by 1.1 per cent. It’s the first time it has ever dropped compared to the same period 12 months previously. Fuel sold through independents and oil company-owned sites grew by 2.8 per cent in comparison.
If retailers can continue taking the fight to the supermarkets by using the low price of fuel, it can only be good news for drivers.