Petrol prices racing back to record highs

Updated: 
There's more bad news for motorists: petrol prices are just 1p away from the record high they reached in May, and the experts say they will push through the barrier of 137p a litre in a matter of weeks.

So what's going on, and what can you do about it?
Crazy prices
According to the AA, the average cost of a litre is currently 136.40p. This is only just shy of the record of 137.43p it hit in May this year. It means filling up a standard 50 litre tank will set you back an astonishing £68.20. This compares to a year ago when prices were almost 20p a litre cheaper - and we were still worried about the cost of motoring.

And this isn't the end of it. The experts claim that prices will break through the 137p barrier in the next week or so, and could go above their record price in the next few weeks if events conspire against us.

The price surge is partly due to oil price pressures - increasing as a result of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, and speculators gambling on the market. In addition, the oil companies are taking their slice through increasing profits. Today, for example, Shell announced quarterly profits of £5 billion.

So what can you do abut it?
The first step is to check out the cost at the petrol stations you regularly drive by. In rural areas clearly costs are going to be higher, but petrol stations just a few miles apart can have striking price differences, so it's worth doing your homework to ensure you don't pay over the odds. One option is to check out petrolprices.co.uk for your local area - and for any journey, to find out the best place to stop en route.

Next you can look at reducing fuel consumption The AA has a list of recommendations, including:
  • Get the car serviced regularly to maintain engine efficiency
  • Make sure you use the correct specification of engine oil
  • Check tyre pressures regularly and before long journeys. Under-inflated tyres create more rolling resistance and so use more fuel.
  • If you are carrying extra weight in the boot leave it at home
  • Roof racks/boxes create extra wind resistance, so take it off when you're not using it
  • Plan unfamiliar journeys to reduce the chance of getting lost
  • Cold starts are inefficient so it pays to combine errands rather than making multiple short trips
  • If it's a short journey (a couple of miles or so) consider walking or cycling rather than taking the car
  • Drive smoothly, accelerate gently and read the road ahead to avoid unnecessary braking
  • When you have to slow down or stop, decelerate smoothly by releasing the accelerator in time, leaving the car in gear
  • If you can keep the car moving all the time, so much the better. Stopping then starting again uses more fuel than keeping rolling
  • Change gear as soon as possible without laboring the engine – try changing up at an engine speed of around 2000 rpm in a diesel car or around 2500 rpm in a petrol car
  • Air conditioning increases fuel consumption at low speeds, but at higher speeds the effects are less noticeable. So if it's a hot day it's more economical to open the windows around town and save the air conditioning for high speed driving.
  • Any electrical load increases fuel consumption, so turn off your heated rear windscreen, demister blowers and headlights, when you don't need them.
  • Drive at or within the speed limit – the faster you go the greater the fuel consumption and the greater the pollution too. According to the Department for Transport driving at 70mph uses up to 9% more fuel than at 60mph and up to 15% more than at 50mph. Cruising at 80mph can use up to 25% more fuel than at 70mph.
  • If you do get caught in a queue avoid wasting fuel by turning the engine off if it looks like you could be waiting for more than three minutes.

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