Petrol prices are falling – but should you pay at pump?

Morrisons filling station, Wetherby
Image by Mtaylor848 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Let’s start with some good news. Petrol prices in you area should be heading lower over the next week or so after Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s all announced cuts of up to 2p per litre.

The move came following calls from the RAC for retailers to cut their pump prices to reflect recent falls in the wholesale price of petrol.

Savings for diesel drivers may lag behind slightly. But the RAC says that good news may soon be coming:

“There is also better news on the horizon for diesel drivers. While diesel has risen substantially to an average of 136.79p, and unfortunately still appears to be going up, it should now begin to reduce as the wholesale price has started to fall.”

According to the RAC’s very useful Fuel Watch service, the UK average price of petrol on 6 November was 129.98p per litre. The average diesel price was 136.78p per litre. Fuel Watch analysis indicates that both prices are “very likely to come down” over the next 1-2 weeks.

Pay at pump

I’ve done a fair amount of driving abroad, and one of the most common features of fuel pumps overseas is that they all allow you to pay at pump. Indeed, in some countries, such as the US, you must authorise a payment card before you’re allowed to pump any fuel.

In the UK, pay at pump facilities are relatively rare. And even when they are available, my experience is that most drivers don’t use them and pay in the kiosk instead. One problem with this is that it makes fuel theft — known as bilking — much easier.

Although you’ll probably be caught on CCTV, it’s relatively easy to get away with driving off without paying. Apparently, about 25,000 people do exactly that each year.

Leicestershire Police chief Simon Cole caused a bit of a stir earlier this week when he said — basically — that garages only had themselves to blame. In an interview with The Telegraph newspaper Mr Cole said:

“The petroleum industry could design out bilking in 30 seconds by making people pay up front, which is what they do in other countries … They don’t, because the walk in their shops is part of their business offer.”

I suspect Mr Cole is telling the truth. And I guess he’s frustrated at having to divert police time to this easily-preventable crime, away from more serious crimes.

However, it’s probably also fair to say that we’d have fewer rural petrol stations if they didn’t have shops attached in which customers could grab a bottle of wine/milk/chocolate bar/etc.

A second point is that it would undoubtedly cost quite a lot for filling station operators to upgrade all of their pumps.

Personally, I like the convenience of paying at pump and do it whenever possible. I wish other people did too, as it would cut down queues at busy filling stations (NSFW).

What do you think? Should motorists just chill out and queue with the shoppers, or should we be able to pay at pump and hit the road ASAP?

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