Fuel costs forcing drivers off road

High fuel prices are continuing to force drivers to use their cars less, according to an AA/Populus survey released in the lead-up to the Autumn Statement

60c25bea-5c14-11e3-b599-0a0c0223000020131204T224717
Some 45% are cutting down on car usage because of fuel costs, according to a survey of 21,587 AA members

High fuel prices are continuing to force drivers to use their cars less, according to an AA/Populus survey released in the lead-up to the Autumn Statement

The poll of 21,587 AA members found that 45% are cutting down on car usage and 28% are slashing family or personal budgets to compensate.

Semi or unskilled workers and pensioners are cutting back most on motoring, with 53% using their cars less.

Skilled worker families (35%) are hacking deepest into other areas of their spending to afford fuel and stay on the road. This compares with the 22% in the professional and higher-level manager group. Even so, 42% of the better-off AA members are using their cars less.

Drivers with the gloomiest outlook on pump prices are in Wales where 67% are spending less or driving less because of fuel costs. In Northern Ireland, 50% are using the car less, providing the bulk of the 65% affected by fuel prices there.

Lower mileages and cheaper fuel should leave Londoners best insulated against pump price volatility, yet 41% have reduced car use and 20% are make savings elsewhere to stay mobile.

AA president Edmund King said: "We were stunned when, despite a significant supermarket price war and big fuel price drop, UK petrol consumption in October failed to recover.

"Weather wasn't a factor and the Grangemouth dispute didn't create panic buying. However, power companies were announcing severe price hikes and consumer sensitivity to all forms of energy price hikes appears to have been exposed - like the raw nerve of an unrelenting toothache."

Mr King said the AA had found that its members in Wales, Northern Ireland and other rural areas were often continuing to pay 5p a litre more for supermarket petrol (barely challenged by other local retailers) than down the road in other towns with real competition.

In Market Drayton in Shropshire, a town of 12,000 people, supermarket petrol was 6p a litre or £3 a small tank dearer than in bigger towns, the AA said.

Mr King added: "The Government has committed to a fuel duty freeze and is trying to extend the 5p rural fuel duty rebate, which is helpful. However, if the Treasury is going to make concessions to the fuel retail industry, it needs to tie them to fairer pricing.

"That can be achieved via wholesale price transparency. Despite falls in the average price, inflated prices on some forecourts mean lower sales, hence fewer customers."