Petrol prices hit highest level for three years - and they're still rising

Petrol prices have reached their highest level since December 2014, says RAC Fuel Watch.
Petrol prices have reached their highest level since December 2014, says RAC Fuel Watch.
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Petrol prices have hit their highest level for three years - and they've risen faster in the North East in the last month than anywhere else in the UK.

Motorists have started 2018 paying more for petrol than at any time since the end of 2014, RAC Fuel Watch data has revealed.

The price of petrol rose faster in the North East than anywhere else in the UK last month, according to RAC Fuel Watch.

The price of petrol rose faster in the North East than anywhere else in the UK last month, according to RAC Fuel Watch.

An analysis of fuel prices for December shows the average price of unleaded increased for the second month running – by half a pence from 120.66p to 121.11p (+0.45p), while diesel went up from 123.06p to 123.46p (+0.4p).

A litre of petrol is now at its highest point since December 2, 2014, and a tank of unleaded costs nearly £4 more than it did six months ago.

And the bad news is that fuel prices are more likely to keep going up than come down in early 2018.

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The North East experienced the biggest increase in the price of unleaded, with a litre rising nearly a penny from 120.06p to 120.92p. Northern Ireland finished 2017 with the cheapest petrol, at 120.27p and the South East with the most expensive, at 121.87p.

London saw the highest rise in the price of a litre of diesel last month, according to RAC Fuel Watch.

London saw the highest rise in the price of a litre of diesel last month, according to RAC Fuel Watch.

London suffered the greatest rise in the price of diesel as a result of a litre going up 0.94p to 124.15p. This was still cheaper than the average price in the South East of 124.29p – the highest in the UK. Northern Ireland once again had the cheapest diesel at the start and end of the month, with the cost of a litre hardly increasing.

During 2017, petrol was at its cheapest point in July, at 114.33p a litre (up 6.8p) and diesel was 115.02p (up 8.4p).

This means a tank of unleaded for an average 55-litre family car now costs £66.61 – £3.73 more than it did in July.

For diesel, a fill-up now stands at £67.90 – £4.64 more than in the summer.

The current higher pump prices are a far cry from early 2016, when both fuels averaged 102p a litre.

But – more positively, they are still considerably cheaper than April 2012, when the UK average prices of petrol and diesel reached record highs of 142p and 148p a litre respectively.

The latest price rises have been driven by the increased cost of oil, which is now at its highest since May 2015 at $66.61. The cost of a barrel rose 3% in December, having started the month at $64.59.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “Sadly, December was the month oil reached its highest point for over two and a half years – something which motorists are now feeling the effect of at the pumps.

“On a brighter note, the shutdown of the North Sea Forties pipeline did not cause the price of oil to increase as many expected. It had been feared this would lead to petrol and diesel going up in the run-up to Christmas, but luckily for drivers global oil production was not negatively affected as a result.

“It’s hard to see pump prices getting much cheaper in the early part of 2018. Unfortunately, the good times of lower cost fuel appear to be over, and it’s probably now far more likely that we will see them going up as OPEC’s oil production cuts are starting to have the desired effect of reducing the global oil glut and pushing the barrel price higher.”