Drivers should avoid certain petrol stations to stop overpaying

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With Christmas around the corner, many motorists across the UK will be closely watching their bank accounts as petrol and diesel prices remain “unnecessarily high”. According to several experts, including the RAC, some petrol stations are still overcharging drivers. 

Tom Hixon, Head of Instructor Support at Bill Plant Driving School, exclusively told “Fuel prices remain unnecessarily high throughout the cost of living crisis hitting the country – supermarkets appear to still not be reducing these prices despite the wholesale price of fuel imports having reduced.

“It is difficult to determine exactly why supermarkets aren’t reducing their prices, however, from an external viewpoint, it can be determined that they are able to reduce these costs but are choosing not to.”

Mr Hixon also provided some tips on what drivers should do ahead of Christmas. He said: “My advice would be to shop around, some independent fuel stations may have lower prices in your area – it’s best to weigh up your options and then go for the cheapest.

“In terms of saving fuel throughout the winter months, the general advice still applies.”

The expert continued: “Be sure to maintain your vehicle, checking tyre pressure to ensure you are not wasting fuel where it could be saved.

“Also, try to combine journeys rather than taking them separately – this will save wasting fuel on reheating your car and engine. If you are able to reduce weight in your vehicle too, this will save fuel – remove any roof racks or unnecessary items from the boot.”

Mr Hixon’s claims come after the RAC also urged drivers to be smart when shopping for petrol and diesel.

The experts stressed that despite the average price of petrol and diesel falling by 6p a litre in November, data from RAC Fuel Watch shows that the reductions on the country’s forecourts should have been at least twice that.

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According to the RAC, unleaded came down from 165.96p to 159.88p while diesel dropped from 190.31p to 183.87p, saving motorists more than £3 a tank.

It now costs £91.28 to fill up 55-litre family-sized petrol car and £101.13 for a similar diesel vehicle.

The reason the RAC believes drivers have lost out is due to the wholesale price of petrol plummeting by 11p in November from 122.63p to 111.53p on top of significant reductions in late October. Diesel decreased by even more last month, coming down 15p from 143p to 128p.

Taking an average of wholesale prices for the last week of November (21-25), the RAC believes petrol should really be at an average of 146p and diesel to 169p – 14p and 15p lower than the current averages.

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Consequently, the RAC believes retailers are now collectively enjoying margins of more than 20p a litre – a figure that drivers will find truly shocking as they struggle to put fuel in their cars to go about their daily lives.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “It’s bordering on a scandal that drivers are being overcharged so much because the big four supermarkets, which dominate UK fuel retailing, are flatly refusing to reduce their prices by bigger amounts.

“Their prices are dropping like a feather when they should be falling like a stone. In 10 years of closely monitoring fuel prices we have never seen major retailer margins this high for this long.

“It used to be the case before the pandemic that we’d see wholesale prices drop by 4p a litre and then the supermarkets would be vying with one another to announce a price cut to drive customers into their stores.

“This sadly seems to be a thing of the past as nowadays they appear to be hanging on to massive margins for dear life. This is to the detriment of everyone because, of course, other retailers won’t be encouraged to reduce their prices meaning the UK average stays artificially high.

“We have more sympathy for smaller retailers that don’t buy new stock as often as their larger competitors and need larger margins to stay afloat – to their considerable credit, some have lowered their prices drastically, undercutting the supermarkets by a huge amount. We’ve had reports of independent retailers selling petrol for as little as 140p a litre which is 18p lower than the supermarket average.

“While every retailer is free to charge what they like for their fuel it doesn’t seem fair that some of the biggest retailers appear to be taking advantage of their hard-pressed customers in the run-up to Christmas by making well over 10p more on a litre than they used to. We strongly urge every driver not to automatically assume their local supermarket is the cheapest place to fill up and shop around for the best priced fuel.

“We saw some similar fuel pricing behaviour from the big chains last Christmas but despite this, we believe this is probably the worst example of ‘rocket and feather’ pricing we have ever seen. We hope the Competition and Markets Authority, which is currently investigating UK fuel retailing, is paying close attention. We would also remind the supermarkets that the Government’s 5p-a-litre duty cut is still in place and is intended to ease the burden on drivers.”

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