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May makes it seven months of rising petrol prices

After the seventh month of rising prices petrol is now more than 22p a litre more expensive than a year ago – the biggest 12-month increase seen for 11 years, data from RAC Fuel Watch shows.

Unleaded went up by more than 2p a litre (2.24p) in May to 129.27p while diesel also increased by a similar amount (1.95p) to 131.59p. In the seven months since the country last saw the average price of petrol fall (November 2020) petrol has increased by 15.5p. Diesel is now almost 20p dearer than at the end of last May (19.73p) after a 14.4p hike in the last six months alone.

The 22p surge in the price of petrol followed a litre dropping to an average of just 106p (105.81p) on 21 May 2020 on the back of oil plunging to $13.21 a barrel at the beginning of the pandemic. Petrol last rocketed by this amount over a 12-month period in May 2010.

At a price of 129.27p unleaded is now more expensive than it was at the start of 2020 prior to coronavirus arriving in the UK: a price last seen in mid-August 2019. Diesel, however, at 131.59p still hasn’t surpassed the 132p a litre it reached at the end of January 2020.

This means a full tank for a 55-litre family car will set drivers of petrol cars back £71.10 and diesel cars £72.37 – around £8 more than before the non-stop rises began in November.

Buying fuel at a forecourt run by one of the four major supermarket chains will currently save drivers around 4p a litre with the average price of petrol standing at 124.83p and diesel 127.36p. The average increase in the cost of supermarket fuel mirrors the UK rise which the RAC says is not surprising as, since the pandemic, they are now responsible for selling 60% of all the fuel in the UK. Filling up on the motorway will set drivers back 146.78p for petrol and 149.59p for diesel after 2p and 1.6p rises in May.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams:

“After a weekend which saw millions of cars take to the roads to enjoy a sunny bank holiday and a half term away from home the price of filling up with petrol has unfortunately reached its highest point in just shy of two years.

“After seven consecutive months of rising prices drivers will be wondering if the increases are ever going to end. We’ve now witnessed the biggest petrol price rise in any 12-month period since May 2010 when unleaded rocketed from 99p a year earlier to 121p.

“As always, the future of fuel prices is hard to predict more than a few weeks in advance and even more so now as the pandemic appears to have altered the dynamics of fuel retailing, with the supermarkets having an even greater stranglehold on the market.

“Looking at the wholesale price of both fuels, in normal circumstances unleaded definitely shouldn’t be continuing to rise with the numbers actually pointing to the potential for a 2p reduction. And diesel is currently 4p too expensive which suggests retailers are using the saving in the wholesale price to help make up for lower fuel sales over the last year.

“We urge retailers not to take advantage of drivers and fairly reflect what’s happening with wholesale prices on the country’s forecourts.

“Drivers’ fuel price fate depends on what happens with global oil production and demand. Oil producers had curbed supply due to lower demand but have been releasing more product as the travel recovery continues.”

Regional pump prices compared

Unleaded 01/05/2021 31/05/2021 Change
UK average 127.03 129.27 2.24
East 127.55 129.79 2.24
East Midlands 126.70 128.58 1.88
London 128.68 130.87 2.19
North East 125.62 128.19 2.57
North West 126.50 128.84 2.34
Northern Ireland 123.34 125.11 1.77
Scotland 126.60 128.78 2.18
South East 128.13 130.48 2.35
South West 127.17 129.63 2.46
Wales 126.08 128.21 2.13
West Midlands 126.74 129.28 2.54
Yorkshire and the Humber 125.92 128.09 2.17


Diesel 01/05/2021 31/05/2021 Change
UK average 129.64 131.59 1.95
East 130.40 132.31 1.91
East Midlands 129.43 131.32 1.89
London 130.75 132.79 2.04
North East 128.44 130.40 1.96
North West 129.23 131.06 1.83
Northern Ireland 125.30 127.47 2.17
Scotland 129.33 131.29 1.96
South East 130.96 132.89 1.93
South West 129.94 131.96 2.02
Wales 128.75 130.80 2.05
West Midlands 129.59 131.53 1.94
Yorkshire and the Humber 129.05 131.09 2.04

Find out more about UK petrol and diesel prices on the RAC website.

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