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UK drivers told to shop around as petrol prices head to new highs

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Motorists are being advised to shop around for fuel before filling up this weekend as the soaring cost of car ownership heaps fresh pain on squeezed household finances.

With experts predicting that fuel price records set nearly a decade ago will be eclipsed in the coming days, the AA said supermarket forecourts could offer big savings.

Luke Bosdet, the AA’s fuel price spokesperson, said shopping around was the best short-term tactic for consumers, with supermarket fuel up to 5p a litre cheaper for petrol, while the saving on diesel was up to 6p.

UK petrol prices predicted to hit record high within daysRead more

The motoring group, which also monitors local price differences, said it had found that in towns with competing supermarkets the pump price could be 3p a litre cheaper than in a neighbouring town with higher-priced fuel. Supermarkets use fuel discounts to attract shoppers to their stores.

Forecourt prices have risen sharply over the past month, during which a driver shortage caused supply problems and led to panic buying that resulted in filling stations across the country running out of fuel.

The fallout from the crisis is still ongoing with almost two in five drivers unable to buy fuel over the past fortnight because it was not available, according to an Office for National Statistics survey carried out between 6 and 17 October.

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The most recent figures show that on Thursday, average petrol prices were within a whisker of the UK record, reaching 142.16p a litre against a record of 142.48p in April 2012. Diesel averaged 145.68p, against a record of 147.93p a litre in 2012, according to analysts at Experian Catalist.

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The AA said petrol car owners were shouldering the burden of faster rising diesel costs as its analysis suggested fuel retailers’ profit margins on petrol were increasing.

“The AA recognises there is probably still turmoil in the fuel trade after the panic buying, and that may well have disrupted diesel contracts,” said Bosdet. “It also understands that it is basic commerce for a retailer to load more profit on to some items than others.”

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The cost of fuel is not the only cost pressure for drivers with secondhand car prices rocketing as new car production is disrupted by the global shortage of computer chips. This week official data showed higher used-car prices were stoking inflation.

The motoring group said buyers are in some cases paying nearly 60% more than two years ago for popular secondhand cars, according to data from its AA Cars website.

Three to five-year-old Ford Fiestas are now valued at £9,770, which is £2,322 or 31% more than in 2019. At £15,367, a three-year-old Mini Hatch now costs 57% more than a model of the same age in 2019 when it was worth about £10,000.