A typical tank of petrol now costs an average of £5 more than it did in late 2020, according to new figures from the RAC. Data from the motoring organisation’s Fuel Watch initiative shows petrol prices rose for the fourth consecutive month in February, with diesel prices climbing for the third month in a row.

By the end of last month, the average litre of petrol cost 123.28p, up by more than 3p on the prices seen at the beginning of February. Similarly, the average price of diesel also rose by around 3p per litre over the course of the month, climbing to 126.47p per litre by the close.

Those increases meant filling a typical family car’s 55-litre fuel tank with petrol was about £1.70 more expensive at the end of February than at the beginning. However, the increase was even more dramatic when measured from November 1. Back then, filling a 55-litre tank with petrol would have been £4.87 cheaper than at the end of February, while a tank of diesel would have cost £4.75 less than it did just a few days ago.

Motorists fill up at petrol startion in Trowbridge UK

According to the RAC, the rises are the result of a “sharp” increase in the price of oil. In February alone, prices rose by $10 a barrel to $65.83 – a value not seen for more than a year. Compared with November 1, 2020, a barrel of oil is now $29 more expensive.

However, drivers in Northern Ireland won’t be feeling the pinch quite so much. Over there, the RAC says fuel prices are still around 5p per litre cheaper than the UK average. The RAC says this is because fuel is being imported from the Republic of Ireland, where taxes are lower, and the value of sterling has risen compared with the Euro.

Woman motorist filling car at petrol station

“February was another rough month for drivers at the pumps and there is great uncertainty over the future of forecourt prices, with fears of further rises looming large,” said RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams. “Those using their cars more frequently will have found themselves having to fork out far more in February than they have at any other time during the pandemic with a complete fill-up now costing almost £5 more than it did at the start of November.

“Oil shot up by $10, a barrel price last seen in January 2020, which led to a 3p a litre hike on the cost of both petrol and diesel. The worry now is whether analysts talk of oil reaching $80 by the end of the year will prove accurate. If it does, we could see a litre of unleaded top 130p and diesel 134p.

“Much hinges on what oil producer group OPEC and its allies decide to do at their meeting tomorrow (March 4). As the build-up of crude from the pandemic is starting to diminish, they are expected to increase output, but the important question is by how much. There’s a big concern that they won’t release enough supply to soak up the increased global demand as life begins to return to something more like normal, which could cause the price to go up further. If this proves to be the case, drivers will inevitably be hit badly at the pumps.”