Fuel prices have risen by around 10 percent in just five months despite the coronavirus lockdown, according to new figures. Data from the RAC’s Fuel Watch initiative, which tracks fuel prices across the UK, shows the average price of petrol and diesel rose for the fifth consecutive month in March.

Come the end of the month, the average litre of petrol cost 126.28p, while the average litre of diesel came in at 129.07p. The two prices are both more than 2p higher than they were at the start of the month, with oil prices rising despite the reduced demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

That means petrol prices are now more than 12p per litre more expensive than at the start of November last year, while diesel prices have risen by 11.4p per litre. That’s an increase of almost 10 percent over a five-month period.

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As a result, filling a typical 55-litre fuel tank with petrol will now cost £69.45 – an increase of £6.68 on November’s prices. And filling a similar tank with diesel will now cost £70.99 on average, meaning the cost has risen by £6.29.

The RAC says the price rises have been caused by changes to the cost of oil, although price increases have been softened slightly by the strength of the British currency and reduced demand. However, the organisation says diesel is “overpriced”, with wholesale prices (the amount retailers pay for the fuel) currently lower than for petrol.

Hand holding fuel pump and refilling car at petrol station

“Pump price rises seem a little unrelenting at the moment with March being the fifth successive month where prices went up,” said RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams. “This is very frustrating for drivers who are now starting to use their vehicles more with the easing of the national lockdown. They’re unfortunately suffering the effects of the rise in wholesale fuel prices that took place in February which led retailers to increase their forecourt prices almost daily throughout last month.

“The situation isn’t as grim as it could be though as the combination of a relatively strong pound and an oil price that is pegged back by lower global demand as a result of the pandemic mean wholesale prices are still lower than they otherwise would be.

“Diesel is looking particularly overpriced at the moment, with the wholesale price of the fuel currently less than the petrol equivalent. Unfortunately, this rarely translates into lower prices as retailers tend to use the saving to subsidise the price of petrol.

“The coming weeks and months are critical when it comes to working out where prices might be heading during the rest of 2021. For as long as global Covid-19 travel restrictions remain, it’s hard to see oil prices rocketing – and that should protect wholesale, and in turn, pump prices from rising too quickly. However, what the major oil producing nations decide to do in terms of oil output is also important. Any further reductions in supply could start to push the barrel price up above the $70 mark again, spelling yet more pump price rises here in the UK.”