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Fuel costs have only risen slightly in real terms

Which? finds fuel spend parity over last 30 years

Petrol pump

Fuel costs are almost on a par with 30 years ago

UK motorists are only paying slightly more for fuel now than in 1980 due to the better fuel economy of today’s cars, according to new Which? research.

We compared the test figures of Fords past and present and found parity in fuel spend once adjustments had been made for inflation. Our findings suggest we are paying no more now for fuel than we did 30 years ago, despite the higher cost at the pump.

Read our guide to finding the cheapest fuel

Fuel spend parity: Which? research

In 1980, the family favourite Ford Cortina 2.0-litre petrol averaged 27 miles per gallon (mpg).

Ford Mondeo and Ford Cortina

We compared the Ford Cortina to the Ford Mondeo

Fuel cost 28p a litre, which when adjusted for inflation would give an annual fuel bill of £1,889 (based on the UK average of 12,000 miles a year).

Today, the closest equivalent to the Cortina, the Ford Mondeo* 2.0-litre petrol, averages 34.9mpg in Which? tests. Based on a petrol cost of £1.29 per litre** this gives an average annual spend of £1,915.

That’s little more than UK motorists were spending on fuel in 1980 when oil prices were also high, although the equivalent figures for 1990 (£1,408) and 2000 (£1,634) show that the price of filling up has risen rather more markedly in the last two decades.***

Join the debate on Which? Conversation about this investigation

Shop around to save more than £200

Which? also found that shopping around for fuel could save you more than £200 a year, after it investigated how petrol prices vary across thousands of UK stations. 

We found that supermarket brands were generally cheapest, especially Asda, while, on average, BP was the most expensive.****

The Which? fuel calculator allows motorists to calculate their car’s true mpg and journey costs, and offers tips on finding the cheapest fuel in their area.

Richard Headland, Editor of Which? Car, said: ‘Even in these times of record pump prices, there are ways to minimise how much you spend on fuel.

‘The simplest way to save is to shop around for the best deal in your area – this could save you a packet.’

Cut your car running costs with our advice guides


*Which? tested the Ford Mondeo Estate 2.0 EcoBoost with Powershift automatic transmission. Its tested average fuel economy of 34.9mpg isn’t as good as many large cars, so the £1,915 annual fuel bill is something of a worst case scenario.

**Fuel prices used for the original article were correct on 10 Feb 2011. On Monday 28 March, the average price for unleaded was £1.33 per litre, which would make the cost of filling up the 2.0 Mondeo £2,081.

***1990 figure based on petrol at 47 pence per litre and a Ford Sierra 2.0 averaging 31.0mpg; 2000 figure based on petrol at 84 pence per litre and a Ford Mondeo 1.8 averaging 34.9mpg

****Using fuel card purchase data from comparison website PetrolPrices.com, Which? compared the cost of a litre of petrol and diesel on 10 Feb 2011 at more than 6,000 petrol stations across the UK. The consumer champion calculated the average price per litre for each of the major fuel brands.


Get more from Which? Car

Get more from Which? Car

Magazine: Which? Car magazine is the UK’s only independent car guide (we don’t take ads, so our reviews are totally impartial). The Winter 2011 issue is the first of the new look Which? Car, packed with more new and used car reviews than ever before. We’ve dedicated more pages to in-depth reviews of all the major cars on sale today, helping you to make the most educated decision about buying a new or used car. It’s on sale now, priced at £4.99, available from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, WH Smith, Martin McColl and good independent newsagents.

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