The cost of a litre of petrol has risen by almost 20p since November to hit its highest level since 2013, according to research by motoring group the AA.
The organisation said the average pump price in the UK was now above 133p a litre, up from 114p in the autumn. Diesel has undergone a similar price rise, the figures show, with the cost of a litre rising from 117.20p in the middle of November to 135.74p on Sunday.
The eight-year high has been reached just as schools start to break up across England and Wales, and many households prepare to travel to holiday destinations within the UK. The RAC said this was expected to lead to “unprecedented levels of traffic”.
Its survey of 2,500 drivers found large numbers had booked breaks in the West Country, Scotland, Yorkshire, the Lake District and East Anglia.
More than half said they were headed more than 150 miles from home, and a third who had holidayed in the UK last year said this year they would be driving further.
RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “With the school summer holidays less than two weeks away, a second ‘staycation summer’ in a row now looks like a certainty and will mean millions of us relying on our cars to get us wherever we want to go.
“Our research shows that while most people have already made their plans, if – as expected – travel restrictions limit the numbers taking foreign holidays, then those booking last-minute trips in the UK will probably soar, adding to what we expect to already be an extremely busy summer on the roads.”
Petrol prices dropped sharply last year as the pandemic took hold, as global demand for oil slumped to its lowest level for 25 years.
The AA’s figures show that in May last year the price of a litre of petrol fell to 106.48p, and that it did not get as high as 115p for the rest of the year.
But as economies have opened up demand has driven oil prices back up, and the AA said petrol and diesel prices had risen for 32 consecutive weeks. The increase in petrol prices has added £10.45 to the cost of filling up a 55l-car such as a Ford Focus.
Luke Bosdet, the AA’s fuel price spokesperson, said: “Surging pump prices continue to drain family and other consumer spending.
“A family with two petrol cars would have spent around £230 on fuel in November had Covid lockdowns not discouraged travel. Now, the monthly cost of refuelling their vehicles is above £265.”
Bosdet said pump prices seemed to have closely tracked oil prices, and these had now remained stable for three weeks, so may have reached a plateau.
However, he said drivers faced other cost increases over the coming months.
A move to E10 petrol, which has lower emissions, could increase prices by 0.2p a litre and reduce fuel economy slightly. On top of this, ultra-low emission zones (Ulez) are being introduced and expanded.
“There are new financial pressures bearing down on the cost of road travel, usually tied to reducing CO2 emissions and inner-city pollution,” said Bosdet.
“For most, the impact is slight, particularly when lost in general pump price volatility. For others, it is potentially devastating, especially if you are a low-income car owner living or working in a Ulez or clean air zone where daily charges will price you off the road if you don’t have the funds to replace your car.”