April marked the sixth successive month of petrol price rises in the UK, according to new figures from the RAC. With the value of oil rising by almost $5 (around £3.60) a barrel last month, the price of a litre of unleaded petrol rose by almost a penny to hit its highest price since January 2020.

Thanks to last month’s 0.89p-per-litre rise in the price of petrol, a litre of unleaded now costs an average of 127.19p in the UK. That means filling a typical family car’s 55-litre fuel tank with petrol now costs £69.95 – the highest it has been for more than a year.

The RAC’s Fuel Watch initiative also found diesel prices were on the rise last month, climbing 0.62p per litre to hit 129.73p a litre. That fifth consecutive month of diesel price hikes means it now costs £71.35 to fill the typical 55-litre tank.

Esso petrol station and Tesco express convenience store in London

According to the RAC, drivers should brace for further increases in price as hopes of an economic recovery in the summer are already inflating oil prices. The value of a barrel of oil is now approaching $70 (just over £50) – a level unseen since May 2019. Should major oil-producing nations decide to continue restricting supply, the RAC says prices could rise further still, impacting the cost of petrol and diesel.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic was fuelling price rises, and warned drivers to expect further hikes. However, he said things would be worse were it not for the relative strength of the British currency relative to the dollar – the currency in which oil is traded.

Woman motorist filling car at petrol station

“April marks six months of rising petrol prices and sadly there’s no end in sight as oil is getting perilously close to hitting $70 a barrel – something we haven’t seen for more than two years,” he said. “If oil breaks this threshold, it will inevitably spell more bad news for drivers at the pumps.

“With lockdown restrictions easing, it’s very frustrating for drivers that they’re now having to contend with even higher fuel prices just at the point where many will be driving a lot more. But unfortunately, it’s the very fact people are driving more that’s causing petrol prices to go up as demand for oil – and in turn fuel – begins to outpace supply.

“The saving grace is the relative strength of the pound compared to the US dollar on world currency exchange markets. As oil is traded in dollars, a stronger pound means it costs less to buy for refining into motor fuel. If the value of the pound were to tumble, we’d all be paying much more at the pumps than we are at the moment.

“Progress in the global battle against the coronavirus will be critical in determining where fuel prices go from here. The success of domestic vaccination schemes could lead to greater demand for fuel and in turn rising prices due to global supply restrictions. Ongoing travel restrictions in other countries around the world may also prolong oil output restrictions and force fuel prices in the UK higher still.”

Audi refuelling at petrol station