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RAC and FairFuelUK poll shows urgent need to scrap 3p fuel duty rise in run up to Christmas

Press release   •   Dec 03, 2012 12:16 GMT

  • 85% people say the price of fuel has had a negative impact on their social life
  • 3/4 say they are using their car less now than they were a year ago
  • 6% of motorists say they have slept in their car to avoid the expense of commuting to work
  • 2.9 million ‘ghost cars’ in the UK are used less than once a week

Motorists are being forced to make tough choices and big sacrifices in an effort to save money and reduce the impact of the price of fuel on their lives.

A joint survey of more than 9,000 people by the RAC and FairFuelUK has revealed three quarters of motorists are using their car less today than a year ago and they are taking some extreme measures to cut back on the miles they travel.

Quentin Willson, national spokesman for FairFuelUK said, “These results prove that unless the Chancellor scraps the 3p rise on Wednesday next week he’ll be delivering a cruel Christmas and an impoverished New Year to millions of families and tens of thousands of UK businesses. As a society we’ve never seen this sort of financial pressure put on personal mobility.”

RAC technical director David Bizley said: “Our members have been telling us for a long time that the cost of motoring is getting too much to stomach and having a big impact on their lives but it has now reached crisis point with motorists taking extreme steps to cope with the high price of fuel.

“At Christmas time it is particularly hard to accept that people are cutting back on family trips and social gatherings in an effort to save money. We strongly urge the Chancellor to take a decisive step this week by scrapping the 3p fuel duty increase planned for January 2013. Fuel duty in Britain is the highest in Europe and now represents 60% of the price we pay at the pump. Motorists are contributing £45 billion to the Treasury every year, but only a fraction is going to improve the quality of the road network.

“It is motorists and families living in rural areas that are hit the hardest as they are doubly reliant on their cars to get to work, school and maintain family contacts. Access to supermarket filling stations, where prices are lowest, and public transport alternatives which are not always available to those living in remote areas and who are often on lower wages to begin with.

“People are also telling us that they are facing tough choices about their careers with some now weighing up whether it is actually affordable to commute to work. And we had a significant number of pensioners telling us that with a fixed income there was nothing they can do but simply cut out social and non-essential trips altogether and even stopping doing voluntary work.”

Key findings - Social Impact of fuel prices survey – November 2012 Fuelling up:
  • 3/4 motorists live within five miles of a supermarket with a fuel station
  • 7% live 10 miles or further from a supermarket with a fuel station
  • 68% say that they fill-up a supermarket fuel stations
    • 3/4 say that price is the primary factor in choice of where to fill-up
    • 39% say that loyalty points are a factor in their choice
    • 13% of motorists fill-up wherever they travel
  • 25% of motorists will travel up to 10 miles for cheap fuel, 9% will travel up to 15 miles, and 6% will travel over 15 miles
  • 39% of motorists fill-up once a week, 35% fill up once a fortnight, 1% fill up every day
  • 3/5 of motorists fill up their fuel tank every time they visit a fuel station
  • 4% pay over £100 to fill up their vehicle – on average motorists pay £62.17 to fill up their tank

Cutting down miles:

  • 85% said the price of fuel has had a negative impact on their social life
  • 3/4 of motorists are travelling less miles than a year ago to save money, 14% are travelling more
  • 17% have cut out family days out and holidays
  • 44% have cut back on social occasions
  • 7% have cut out shopping trips

Work and cutting miles:

  • Almost half of respondents (48%) drive to work – 19% use their car for work
  • 3% consider they would be better off on benefits after accounting for the cost of their weekly commute
  • 8% have considered changing their jobs to reduce their commute
  • 7% have considered quitting their job to save money on their commute
  • 1.5% have actually quit their job
  • 1% are now car sharing to save money
  • 4% are working from home more to save on the weekly fuel bill

Extreme measures:

To save money on their commute to work:

  • 3% have camped near work
  • 6% have slept in their car
  • 1% have slept in the office
  • 11% stay with friends
  • Four respondents said they have slept rough


The RAC estimates there are now 2.9 million ‘ghost cars’ in the UK which are being used less than once a week**. In an earlier survey in November of 1,300 motorists one in seven respondents (14%) said their household owned a car which was only used occasionally, with the North East (22%) and London (20%) the areas where this was most common, probably due to their extensive public transport networks. Amazingly, one third of these unused cars are only one to two years old, meaning they are rapidly depreciating in value while they sit idle on the driveway.

Notes to Editors

Based on a survey of 9,284 people conducted by the RAC online from 28th – 30th November.

** Based on an early survey of 1,394 people conducted by the RAC online in November.

14% of respondents who said their household had a vehicle which was used less than once a week, multiplied by 20.5 million households in UK - http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/mro/news-release/workless-households-down-by-153-000-to-3-7-million/whnr0812.html

For all media enquiries, please contact the RAC press team on +44 (0)1454 664 123. The line is manned by an on-call press officer outside office hours. ISDN radio studio facilities are available for interviews Monday to Friday.

About the RAC

First formed in 1897, the RAC has been looking after the needs of its members and championing the interests of drivers for more than 120 years.

Today it has more than eight million members and is one of the UK’s most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists. Whether it's roadside assistanceinsurancebuying a used carvehicle inspections and checkslegal services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information – the RAC offers a solution for all motoring needs. The RAC is committed to making motoring easier, safer, more affordable and more enjoyable for drivers and road users.

The RAC is the motorist’s champion and campaigns to support the interests of its members and UK drivers at a national level. This includes voicing concerns about the increasing cost of motoring, particularly the price of fuel and the high level of tax levied on it, advancing levels of road safety, and supporting the needs of all drivers, from young to old.

The RAC’s annual Report on Motoring – first published in 1989 – is one of a kind and provides a clear insight into the concerns and issues facing today’s motorists.

For the very latest news on UK fuel prices, check RAC Fuel Watch. It provides a comprehensive guide to the latest UK unleaded petrol and diesel prices – both at the wholesale level and at the pump - and tracks these prices daily to help drivers check if the price they pay to fill up is a fair one.