Petrol down - but so is car use

Falling petrol prices are failing to kick-start more car use, according to an AA/Populus survey.

The survey showed that 18% had replaced their car in the last 12 months with a more fuel-efficient one
The survey showed that 18% had replaced their car in the last 12 months with a more fuel-efficient one

The poll of more than 18,000 AA members , conducted last month, showed that just 7% were more relaxed about prices at the pumps and were using their car more than a year ago.

And as many as 57% said they were still in a car-travel rut and were adopting fuel-saving techniques despite lower prices.

The survey also showed that 18% had replaced their car in the last 12 months with a more fuel-efficient one.

The AA highlighted Government figures which showed that petrol sales in March fell to a record low of 1.367 billion litres despite average petrol prices dipping to around 129.5p a litre, which was 10p lower than in March 2013.

The Government figures showed that UK petrol consumption in the first three months of this year was at a record low at 3.126 billion tonnes, compared with 3.259 billion tonnes in the January-March 2013 period.

The AA survey showed that 55% said the big increases in gas and electricity prices last winter forced them to choose carefully how they used their cars.

This was particularly the case among semi-skilled and unskilled workers, with 66% of them restricting their car use to balance spending.

The AA said that with warmer weather, petrol sales rose in the spring, with the May figure reaching more than 1.5 billion litres.

The January-March slump in petrol sales was felt evenly by retailers, with supermarket sales down 4% and non-supermarket sales down 4.1%.

Diesel sales in the first three months of this year were up 3%.

AA president Edmund King said: "The fragility of driver and family budgets is clear to see. In December, 35% of the AA/Populus panel said they would cut back on car use if their domestic energy bills rose 10%. The reality is that 55% now say they have been affected.

"Years of sky-high petrol and diesel prices have taught drivers how to balance their spending by regulating their car use - even when the financial pressure isn't coming from the pump. Since 2005, the AA has warned of the damage to family budgets from runaway pump prices, but not even we could predict the scale of the backlash."