Since March 1983, I have kept a detailed record of fuel prices and fuel consumption, spanning eighteen different cars, both privately-owned and company. This table records the movement in fuel prices over that period, taking in each year the first fuel purchase in March. Prices are for leaded 4-star up to 1988, and unleaded thereafter. This roughly corresponds to the point when unleaded took over from 4-star as the standard fuel.
During the period covered by the table, "real" fuel prices fell between 1983 and 1992, encouraging a boom in road traffic, but then rose sharply due to the "fuel duty escalator", resulting in the fuel protest of 2000. At this time, fuel prices had risen by over 50% in five years, which undoubtedly caused much hardship.
The table also does not show peak prices in my local area, which were 224.6p/gallon (49.4p/litre) in October 1990, following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and 390.5p/gallon (85.9p/litre) in June 2000, just before the fuel protest. Around this time I even paid 404.1p/gallon (88.9p/litre) in the Scottish Highlands. It seems that peak prices tend to occur in the autumn, and March, just as winter demand is tailing off, is often a low point in the year.
Even though fuel duty was cut by 1p/litre in March 2011 and has been frozen since, the continued high level of the international oil price led to the March 2013 price being the highest ever in absolute terms, and equalling the record in "real" terms. In the second half of 2014 the oil price effectively halved, although obviously the effect on pump prices was limited by the high fixed element of duty. It fell further during 2015, resulting in the lowest pump prices for some years in the early part of 2016, although it subsequently rallied a little. The March 2016 figure was 10% below that of 1983 in real terms, and showed a 20% fall over the past five years. The cheapest I paid personally was 458.7p/gallon (100.9p per litre), and some prices were reported of 454.1p/gallon (99.9p/litre), with diesel often a little lower still.
The rise in the oil price and fall in sterling following the Brexit referendum result reversed that trend somewhat. Since then, the price has fluctuated, but in real terms remains below its historic highs. Fuel duty has remained frozen since 2011. The 2020 figure was identical to 2019, although it had been higher throughout most of the intervening period. Since then, the collapse in the international oil price due to the coronavirus crisis has resulted in it declining to 103.9p/litre in my local area (April 22, 2020). Unfortunately, during the lockdown, we are currently in no position to take advantage.
Of the March 2020 price of 119.9p/litre, 77.9p or 65% went to the government (57.95p fuel duty and 19.98p VAT).
For information about current fuel prices in your local area, take a look at PetrolPrices.com.
* Note: this column represents the % increase over 5 years in the non inflation adjusted petrol price.
(Last updated April 2020)