Economics

Q1) What is the current price of petrol and diesel?

Q2) What are the record high prices for the cost of petrol and diesel?

Q3) How does the wholesale (at the refinery gate) price of petrol and diesel compare with the retail (pump) price?

Q4) What are the elements that make up the price of a litre of petrol or diesel?

Q5) What is the current price of petrol and diesel excluding VAT and Fuel Duty?

Q6) What is the percentage of the fuel price that has been taxation over the last 10 years?

Q7) What is the current and historical rate of Fuel Duty? 

Q8) Does the UK have the most expensive petrol prices in Europe?

Q9) What is the proportion of the pump price that is tax in each EU country?

Q10) How is the price of crude oil set?

Q11) What is the current price of a barrel of Brent crude oil?

Q12) What is the record price of a barrel of Brent crude oil?

Q13) Why is diesel more expensive than petrol?

Q14) What was announced in Autumn Budget 2017?

Q15) How much do motorists pay in direct motoring taxes and other taxes?

Q16) How much is spent on roads?

Q17) Has spending by local highway authorities on English local roads fallen in recent years?

Q18) Since 1979, how much has been raised per year in Fuel Duty and Vehicle Excise Duty and how much has been spent on roads in each corresponding year? 

Q19) Is the amount of revenue raised by Vehicle Excise Duty and Fuel Duty likely to decline in future?

Q20) What percentage of motoring taxes do the various vehicle classes pay?

Q21How much do the different users of transport modes contribute to, or cost, the Treasury?

Q22) How have motoring costs changed over a 10 year rolling period?

Q23) What proportion of household spending is spent on motoring?

Q24) How many families live in transport poverty?

Q25) How does the cost of motoring compare to the cost of rail and bus fares over a 10 year rolling period?

Q26) Do local authorities in England make a surplus on their parking activities?

Q27) Which English local authority has the largest income from parking activities?

Q28) Do local authorities in Scotland make a surplus on their parking activities?

Q29) Which Scottish local authority has the largest income from parking activities?

Q30) Do local authorities in Wales make a surplus on their parking activities?

Q31) Which Welsh local authority has the largest income from parking activities?

Q32) Can local authorities use their powers to charge local residents for parking in order to raise surplus revenue for other transport purposes?

Q33) What proportion of local authorities' on-street parking income comes from parking fees and permits and from penalties?

A1) The very latest fuel price is available in the interactive data section of our website. The table also includes an assessment of where fuel prices are expected to go over the next couple of weeks

Here you can also find weekly prices plotted over the past ten years.

For further historic prices click here (Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy data).

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A2) Unleaded petrol hit a record high of 142.17p/litre on 16 April 2012. Diesel hit a record high of 148.04p/litre on the same day.

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A3) A chart showing both the wholesale (at the refinery gate) price of petrol and diesel and the retail (pump) price can be viewed here.

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A4) There are a number of elements that make up the price of a litre of petrol or diesel. These primarily consist of:-

  • Government duty and tax
  • the cost of petrol and diesel on the open market
  • the costs and profit of the wholesaler and retailer. (This is often referred to as the retail/ex-refinery spread). This covers the costs of transport to a storage terminal/depot, storage and distribution to a filling station; marketing and promotion costs; and the costs of operating the filling station and staff.


The United Kingdom Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA) has produced an information leaflet on this matter. This can be viewed here.

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A5) Figures supplied by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy show that in November 2017, the average price of a litre of premium unleaded petrol was 118.91p.  

The price per litre, excluding VAT, was 99.09p and the price, excluding both VAT and Fuel Duty, was 41.14p. 

The average price of a litre of diesel petrol was 122.69p. The price per litre, excluding VAT, was 102.24p and the price, excluding both VAT and Fuel Duty, was 44.29p.

The percentage of the pump price that is Fuel Duty and VAT can be viewed here.

For further historic prices click here (BEIS data).

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A6) This chart plots the percentage of the fuel price that has been taxation over a 10 year rolling period.

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A7) The current Fuel Duty rate is 57.95 pence per litre.

Historical rates since 2001 are shown below.

Unleaded and Diesel     
Duty rate per litre from 7 March 2001              45.82p
Duty rate per litre from 1 October 2003           47.10p
Duty rate per litre from 7 December 2006       48.35p
Duty rate per litre from 1 October 2007           50.35p
Duty rate per litre from 1 December 2008       52.35p
Duty rate per litre from 1 April 2009                 54.19p
Duty rate per litre from 1 September 2009      56.19p
Duty rate per litre from 1 April 2010                 57.19p
Duty rate per litre from 1 October 2010           58.19p
Duty rate per litre from 1 January 2011           58.95p
Duty rate per litre from 23 March 2011            57.95p

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A8) Contrary to popular myth, the UK does not have the most expensive petrol prices in Europe. Click here to see where we rank.

However, the position is different when it comes to diesel where we are routinely in the top two of most expensive countries in the EU 28.

Source: www.energy.eu

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A9) This chart plots the pre-tax cost of unleaded petrol in each of the 28 EU member countries against the proportion of tax in the final pump price. 

This chart plots the pre-tax cost of diesel against the proportion of tax in the final pump price.

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A10) The price of crude oil is largely set globally and as a consequence, crude oil prices are subject to fluctuations in the global balance of supply and demand.

As the crude oil fact sheet shows, demand for the product is driven by a number of factors - global economic activity; the oil intensity of certain sectors; future expectations regarding the availability of oil and its price; weather; and technological innovation.

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A11) The very latest oil price is available in the interactive data section of our website.

Here you can also find the price of Brent crude over the past 12 months both in US dollars and pound sterling

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A12) On 11 July 2008, a barrel of Brent crude oil hit an all-time high of 148 US dollars.

Source: Financial Times

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A13 Historically, demand for diesel has been growing in the UK and Europe, as well as globally. This has led to diesel supply in the UK becoming tighter in recent years and this has been reflected in wholesale prices and pump prices that are often higher than petrol prices.

There are a number of factors that influence prices. These broadly fall into the category of market or structural influences. Market factors include:-

  • increased crude oil prices, with particular demand for "sweeter" lower sulphur crudes like those from the North Sea
  • increased global demand for transport fuels, particularly diesel
  • seasonal winter demand for heating gas oil which is similar to diesel and made from the same basic refinery components
  • summer export of petrol to the USA
  • short-term market factors relecting fuel specification changes, extreme cold weather or temporary supply problems


Structural influences include:-

  • a growing imbalance in the UK and in most other EU countries between petrol and diesel production and demand
  • fuel specification changes


The United Kingdom Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA) has produced an information leaflet on this matter. This can be viewed here.

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A14) In Autumn Budget 2017, the Chancellor announced that the main rate of Fuel Duty for petrol and diesel will remain frozen at 57.95 pence per litre in 2018-19.

 Other measures included:-

  • Alternative fuels – The government will review whether the existing Fuel Duty rates for alternatives to petrol and diesel are appropriate, ahead of decisions at Budget 2018.
  • Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) will be increased in line with RPI for cars, vans and motorcycles registered before April 2017 and the First-Year Rates for cars registered after April 2017. 
  • Air quality – In support of the National Air Quality Plan published in July 2017, the government will provide £220 million for a new Clean Air Fund. The government is launching a consultation alongside Budget on options that could be supported by this fund. The Fund will be paid for by a VED supplement that will apply to new diesel cars first registered from 1 April 2018 and a rise in the existing Company Car Tax diesel supplement from 3% to 4%, with effect from 6 April 2018.
  • Ultra-low emission vehicles – To support the transition to zero emission vehicles, the government will regulate to support the wider roll-out of charging infrastructure; invest £200 million, to be matched by private investment into a new £400 million Charging Investment Infrastructure Fund; and commit to electrify 25% of cars in central government department fleets by 2022. The government will also provide £100 million to guarantee continuation of the Plug-In Car Grant to 2020 to help consumers with the cost of purchasing a new battery electric vehicle.
  • From April 2018, there will be no benefit in kind charge on electricity that employers provide to charge employees’ electric vehicles.
  • Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) – The government wants to see fully self-driving cars, without a human operator, on UK roads by 2021.

Full details of all transport related matters can be viewed in Autumn Budget 2017.

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A15) The taxes that are most directly linked to motoring are Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) and Fuel Duty. Latest figures show that VED generated around £6 billion in 2015, down 1 per cent from 2014 and Fuel Duty about £27 billion. Revenue from Fuel Duty more than tripled between 1987 and 2010 but has remained at £27 billion since then.

Source: Transport Statistics Great Britain 2016 and DfT Table TSGB1310 

In addition to specific road user taxes, some transport expenditure is liable to VAT. In 2012, for private households, a total of £12.2 billion in VAT was raised through motorists buying, running and using their vehicles. (VAT on vehicle purchases raised £3.84 billion; VAT on fuel raised £5.64 billion; and £2.72 billion of VAT was also raised through road users buying other motoring-related goods and services).

Motorists are also taxed for the use of company cars as a benefit in kind. The Road Users’ Alliance estimated the proceeds of this tax to have been £3.7 billion in 2011/12. Motorists also pay an insurance premium tax when they insure their vehicle and it is estimated in 2012 vehicle insurance premium tax costs road users about £560 million a year.

Motorists also pay for driving tests, MOT vehicle tests, and parking and other fees and fines. As these are associated with either a service or penalty, they are not treated as taxes in the analysis undertaken by the RAC Foundation.

Source: Public Expenditure, Taxes and Subsidies: Land Transport in Great Britain 

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A16) Latest figures show that in 2015/16, £9.3 billion was spent on roads in Great Britain.

Source: Transport Statistics Great Britain 2016 and DfT Table TSGB1303 

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A17) Yes. Capital spending on local roads maintenance has been £1.8bn/year over the last two years – the lowest level since 2001/02 whilst local highways authority maintenance spending reduced by 15 per cent between 2009/10 and 2013/14. A further 35 per cent reduction in local highways maintenance budgets is estimated by the end of the decade.

Source: The Condition of England’s Local Roads and how they are Funded

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A18) The amount raised in Fuel Duty and Vehicle Excise Duty each year from 1979, and the expenditure on roads in each corresponding year, can be viewed here

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A19) Yes. There is a forecast collapse in income from motoring taxation caused by increasingly fuel efficient petrol and diesel cars and the predicted large-scale take-up of electric vehicles.

Projections show the amount of Fuel Duty revenue currently stands at 1.7 per cent of GDP but will tumble to 1.1 per cent by 2029. Over the same period, VED revenue will fall by 0.3 per cent to 0.1 per cent. The total decline in motoring taxes is equivalent to £13.2bn a year in today's terms (from £38bn in 2010 to £25bn in 2029).

This forecast is part of detailed analysis of motoring taxation commissioned by the RAC Foundation from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS). The conclusions of the IFS are contained in a report called Fuel for Thought.

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A20) In 2012/13cars were responsible for 63.9 per cent of motoring taxes; HGVs 18.0 per cent; LGVs 13.8 per cent; buses and coaches 3.5 per cent; motorcycles, scooters and mopeds 0.6 per cent; and other vehicles 0.2 per cent.

Source: Public Expenditure, Taxes and Subsidies: Land Transport in Great Britain 

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A21) Drivers contribute 3.8p in tax to the Chancellor’s coffers for every kilometre they travel.

By contrast, passengers on local bus services cost the Treasury in subsidies 6.5p for every kilometre they travel; national rail passengers 8.5p per kilometre; and London Underground passengers 9.7p per kiilometre.

Source: Public Expenditure, Taxes and Subsidies: Land Transport in Great Britain 

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A22) The data chart that can be viewed here plots the percentage change in the price of various aspects of motoring over a rolling ten year period. The RPI cost of living index is also plotted over the same period.

The chart shows that over time, operational costs have generally risen significantly above the rate of inflation. However, the cost of buying a vehicle has not increased as much as inflation.

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A23) In 2015/16, the average weekly household expenditure was £528.90. Transport had the highest average spending, at £72.70 per week, accounting for 14 per cent of household spending. This was just higher than the £72.50 per week spent on housing and fuel costs.

Different households have different transport requirements, with some relying on public transport and others more on cars. Not all households buy a vehicle in any given year, but it is a major expense for those that do. The transport expenditure figures are presented averaged across all households, whether they spent on a particular item or not.

On average, £30.80 of household expenditure on transport was spent on the operation of personal transport. This included £12.00 per week on petrol, £7.30 per week on diesel and £6.20 per week on repairs and servicing.

Households also spent on average £24.80 per week on the purchase of vehicles. This included £14.90 per week spent on buying second hand cars and vans and £8.70 per week spent on buying new cars and vans.

On average £17.20 per week was spent by households on other transport services, such as rail fares and air fares. This was lower than on either buying or fuelling vehicles. Spending on international air fares (£6.20 per week) was the highest, followed by rail and tube fares (£4.10 per week) and bus and coach fares (£1.30 per week).  

Source: Office for National Statistics: Family Spending in the UK - Financial Year Ending March 2016

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A24) Official data analysed by the RAC Foundation suggests that around 960,000 of the very poorest car owning-households spent about a fifth of their disposable income on buying and running a vehicle in the last financial year.

These households (with the lowest tenth of disposable income) had a maximum weekly expenditure of £194 in 2015/16.

Of this £194 disposable income figure, the average household spent £42.50 (22%) per week on the purchase and operation of a car or van.

Source: RAC Foundation

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A25) The data chart that can be viewed here plots over a rolling ten year period the percentage change in the cost of motoring and the cost of rail and bus fares. The RPI cost of living index is also plotted over the same period.

While motoring costs seem to have fallen in real terms, this disguises the fact that the (often discretionary) cost of buying a new or second hand vehicle has been falling whilst (non-discretionary) operating costs such as fuel and insurance have risen significantly quicker than inflation.

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A26) Figures analysed by the RAC Foundation show that in 2016-17, English councils generated a combined "profit" of £819 million from their day to day, on and off street parking operations. This is another record surplus and is 10 per cent higher than the £744 million made in the previous year. 

The figures are calculated by adding up income from parking charges and penalty notices, then deducting running costs. The data comes from the statutory annual returns that councils make to the Department for Communities and Local Government. 

Although not all councils made a large surplus, very few lose money on their parking activities. Just 46 (13 per cent) of the 353 parking authorities in England reported negative numbers.

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A27) The authority with the largest surplus in 2016-17 was Westminster with a "profit" of £73.2 million. The four biggest earners were all London authorities with only Brighton breaking into a top ten dominated by councils in the capital.

A table detailing the parking operations surpluses for all English councils in 2016-17 can be seen here.

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A28) Figures analysed by the RAC Foundation show that between them, local authorities in Scotland made an annual net surplus of £40.3 million from their parking activities in 2015-16.

This figure is 12 per cent higher than the previous financial year when the surplus was £36.1 million.

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A29) The biggest "profits" were made in Edinburgh (£19.4 million). This was followed by Glasgow (£12.6 million) and Aberdeen (£4.9 million).

Between them these three local authorities generated 91 per cent of the total net surplus in Scotland.

A table detailing the parking operations surpluses for all Scottish councils in 2015-16 can be seen here.

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A30) Figures analysed by the RAC Foundation show that between them, local authorities in Wales made an annual net surplus of £14 million from their parking activities in 2016/17.

The figure for 2016-17 was 1.4 per cent higher than the £13.8 million surplus made in 2015-16.

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A31) The biggest "profits" were made in Cardiff (£3.7 million) followed by Swansea (£2.4 million) and Gwynedd (£1.3 million).

A table detailing the parking operations surpluses for all Welsh councils in 2016-17 can be seen here.

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A32) No. In a ruling at the High Court in London, Mrs Justice Lang said the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act “is not a fiscal measure and does not authorise the authority to use its powers to charge local residents for parking in order to raise surplus revenue for other transport purposes”.

On-street parking fees and penalty charges can only be set with the intention of “relieving or preventing congestion of traffic” and covering the cost of administering the schemes. Strict rules state that any surplus, with only minor exceptions, must be spent on contributing to the cost of off-street parking, public transport, road improvements and environmental improvements.“ But councils should not set out to raise money for these or any other purpose.

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A33) In London, about half of councils' on-street parking income comes from parking fees and permits and half from penalties.

Outside the Capital, the ratio is 55:45.

Source: Spaced Out: Perspectives on Parking Policy

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