With petrol prices at unprecedented highs, motorists may consider every measure possible to avoid the record cost of filling up – including hoarding fuel bought at lower prices.
But although the cost of filling a car is set to continue rising on the back of the war in Ukraine and sanctions against buying Russian oil, storing your own fuel is dangerous and rarely a wise idea.
Latest industry figures show that petrol prices in just 24 hours rose by almost 2p-a-lite to more than £1.58 on Tuesday and diesel increased above £1.65, up more than £3 on the day before. The biggest daily rise since records began in 2000.
With commentators predicting prices rising another 10p to 15p in coming weeks, drivers may be temped to build up their own reserves of lower-priced fuel by filling jerry cans and containers to store petrol at home and in their cars.
But how much are you legally allowed to transport and store? And what are the dangers and insurance risks of doing so?
Fuel price crisis: How much fuel can you transport in your car and store at home? Four containers, as seen here, is above the legal allowance…
Following the UK Government’s announcement on Tuesday that it will phase out imports of Russian oil by the end of the year, MPs and insiders have warned drivers to expect pump prices to continue spiralling.
Already, the cost to fill a petrol family car with a 55-litre fuel tank is £87.01 – more than £19 more than a year ago – while a diesel equivalent will take an eye-watering £90.88 to brim, based on the latest UK average prices.
What are the biggest daily rises in fuel prices on record?
4 September 2005 – a rise of 2.29p
8 March 2022 – a rise of 2.96p
Previous highest was on 16 August 2018, a 2.84p daily increase
Records date back to 2000
Those driving into motorway service station forecourts this week are already seeing prices over £1.73-a-litre for unleaded and £1.76 for diesel on average.
The RAC Foundation has said today that motorists should expect average unleaded pump prices to breach £1.60 per litre before the end of the week and slip above £1.65 shortly after.
The prospect of paying £100 to fill-up is increasingly looking likely to become a reality.
Such is the drastic rate of price increases at the moment, the sight of drivers filling jerry cans with fuel in a bid to stave off rising prices is becoming more common.
But some could be inadvertently breaking rules by transporting excess fuel in their cars and storing too much at home…
How much fuel can you legally store at home?
While it is completely legal to fill jerry cans and fuel-specific containers with petrol at fuel stations, there are strict rules about how much can be kept at your private property.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), you can only legally store up to 30 litres of petrol at your home, or non-workplace premises without informing the correct authorities.
How much fuel can you legally store at home?
You can store up to 30 litres of petrol at home or at non-workplace premises without informing the local Petroleum Enforcement Authority.
The legislation allows you to store petrol in the following containers:
– Plastic containers storing up to 10L
– Metal containers storing up to 20L
– Demountable fuel tank up to 30L
Suitable portable containers are defined in Schedule 2 (para 6) and Schedule 3 of the regulations. UN approved containers are an example of such containers.
Source: Health and Safety Executive
For storage at your house – either in a shed or garage – the rules dictate that just 20 litres of petrol can be stored in metal jerry cans, however this must be spread across at least two cans as you are not allowed to carry 20 litres in just one container.
For fuel-specific plastic containers, which hold up to 5 litres, the maximum total allowance to store at home is 10 litres (so two full containers in total).
Any more than this and it becomes a legal requirement to notify your local Petroleum Enforcement Authority (PEA) in writing, giving your name and address of storage location, official guidelines dictate.
The RAC warns that petrol only has a shelf-life of six months if kept in a sealed container at 20 degrees.
It expires three months earlier if kept at 30 degrees, with heat impacting how quickly it goes off.
Commenting on the storage of excess fuel at home, RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: ‘Just because it’s legal to store up to 30 litres of petrol at home, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
‘Those who need to should follow the law carefully to keep themselves, their families and neighbours safe.
‘Petrol should always be kept in the proper containers in an outbuilding and never left outside.’
A motorist pictured filling jerry cans in the boot of his car in Cambridgeshire this week. The AA recommends people do not consider transporting excess fuel in their vehicles
How much petrol can you legally transport in your car?
While up to 30 litres of fuel can be stored at your private residence, how you get it there is another story – and a bit of a legal grey area.
The HSE says you can store up to 30 litres of petrol in a maximum of two ‘suitable containers’ in your vehicle.
These containers must be kept in the boot and not the vehicle’s cabin.
They must also be clearly marked with the words ‘petrol’ and ‘highly flammable’, be ‘robust and not liable to break under the normal conditions of use’ and also prevent the escape of petrol vapour, the HSE clarifies.
But even if you are transporting fuel within the guidance restrictions, you could still end up in hot water if you’re pulled over by the police.
Rules stipulate that it is down to an officer to determine if the fuel being transported can be considered a ‘dangerous load’ or ‘may be hazardous’ – and there will likely be penalties for those that fail this review. We have asked the Department for Transport what this could mean in terms of fines and penalty points.
The AA stated during fuel shortages last year that it is ‘desperately worried’ about people storing petrol and diesel, which it describes as ‘incredibly, incredibly dangerous’.
The motoring group recommends that people do not consider transporting excess fuel in their vehicles or storing it at home at all.
According to HSE you can only legally store up to 30 litres of petrol at home without notifying authorities – and the type of jerry can determines how much you can store
What impact does storing petrol in a car or at home have on insurance?
The insurance industry says it ‘strongly advises’ against stock piling petrol at home.
This is not only due to the unsociable aspect of conceivably driving prices higher, but also the ‘potential danger to life and damage to property, including risk to third parties,’ a spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers told This is Money.
‘However, if it is absolutely critical for some to store fuel at home, it is important that they follow the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance and do not exceed the safe limit for domestic petrol storage, as well as following the appropriate guidance for storing it safely in approved containers and in a well ventilated area,’ they added.
They also told us that motorists storing a legal volume of petrol at home will not need to notify their home insurance policy provider.
‘Assuming anyone storing fuel within the legal limit have taken reasonable care to prevent loss, damage or liability, and there are no specific exclusions to your home insurance policy, then there should not be a risk of invalidating your home insurance policy,’ the ABI adds.
‘Individuals should check their insurance policy and if they are unsure of any implications, to speak with their insurer.’
The ABI says the similar rules apply for the transportation of fuel in cars and insurance policies.
‘It is important that people follow the HSE guidance and do not exceed the safe limit for transporting domestic petrol in a private vehicle, as well as following the appropriate guidance for storing it safely in approved containers while transporting it.
‘Assuming anyone transporting fuel within the legal limit have taken reasonable care to prevent loss, damage or liability, and there are no specific exclusions to your motor insurance policy, then there should not be a risk of invalidating your motor insurance policy.’
Insurer Aviva told This is Money: ‘Whilst we have no requirement for customers to tell us they are storing fuel at the home address, we would strongly discourage customers from storing large quantities of fuel and they should be aware of the legal requirements around this.
‘If a customer is storing more than 30 litres of fuel, they must adhere to storage requirements set out in the legislation.
‘In the event of a fire, if investigations suggested that the fuel was not being stored correctly, this could affect their claim.
‘For motor insurance, we do not have an exclusion that would prevent a person carrying/storing excess fuel in their vehicle nor do we need to be made aware of it.’
TOP 10 TIPS TO DRIVE MORE EFFICIENTLY TO SAVE THE EQUIVALENT OF 9P-A-LITRE
There are ways to drive more efficiently that can help you to cut down on your fuel bills.
Using really simple eco-driving techniques – like those listed below – ‘can easily save the equivalent of 9p-a-litre’, says the AA.
For motorists desperately wanting to get the most out of the expensive fuel they’re currently pumping into their cars, This is Money has compiled our top 10 best tips to drive as efficiently as possible…
1. Make sure the vehicle is in tip-top running order
If you drive an older car that hasn’t been serviced for a few years, now might be the time to get it booked in to ensure it is running as efficiently as it possibly can be.
Sticking brakes, ageing tyres, faulty sensors, old oil and general poor engine maintenance are just some of the factors that could hit your car’s optimum miles per gallon (mpg) performance.
Ensuring tyres are correctly inflated is one of the easiest ways to ensure your car isn’t being inefficient with its fuel
2. Check tyre pressures
One of the easiest fixes to ensure your vehicle is running at peak efficiency is to regularly check that the tyres are inflated to the correct level.
Underinflated tyres are estimated to impact a car’s fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent.
Check the car’s owner’s manual to find out what the optimum pressures are. Most models also have the tyre pressure info detailed on a sticker on the driver’s door sill – while modern cars might also display the pressure in the instrument cluster, or alert you to pressure that is incorrect.
Most modern cars have adjustable driving settings that modulate how quickly they accelerate. If yours has an ‘ECO’ mode, like the one pictured, you should use it
3. If your car has an ‘eco’ mode, use it
Many modern motors are now fitted with adjustable driving modes.
If yours does, it likely has an ‘eco’ setting. Using these mode will restrict how quickly the car accelerates.
Slower and smoothers acceleration will but will help reduce fuel consumption.
4. If your car doesn’t have an eco setting, be gentle on the throttle
If you have a car that doesn’t have adjustable driving modes, try to replicate what it does with your right foot. This means taking it easy on the throttle pedal when you can.
Excessive speed is the biggest fuel-guzzling factor so having a light right foot and ensuring all acceleration is gentle is very important to fuel-efficient driving.
When you set off from a standstill, such as at traffic lights and junctions, try not to react like you’re on the starting grid at Silverstone.
The RAC says choosing a higher gear will mean you’re not overworking the engine and therefore lessening the demand for fuel
5. Use the highest gear possible
The RAC says that the biggest secret to achieving high mpg is driving in the highest possible gear for your vehicle while keeping within the speed limit.
‘The best advice in urban areas is to change up through the gears as quickly as you can with the lowest revs possible, probably at around 2000rpm,’ it says.
6. Anticipate well ahead to preserve fuel when braking
Heavy acceleration will sap fuel economy, but braking too heavily also has the same impact, as you can use less fuel by coming to a standstill more gradually.
This requires a driver to anticipate traffic flow ahead, but is a great way of limiting fuel use.
If you’re a long-distance driver who relies on cruise control, it might be worth avoiding using it while petrol and diesel prices are as high as they currently are
7. Cruise control isn’t your friend if you want to save fuel
While many will believe that using cruise control functionality will provide the lowest fuel use, this isn’t always the case.
Cruise control is most likely to benefit mpg on motorways with a constant speed and a flat surface.
However, if you were to use your cruise control regularly and not on flat roads, you would see fuel consumption increase.
‘This is because your cruise control would be slower to react to gradient changes, meaning when reaching the brow of a hill – at which point you would normally take your foot off the accelerator to maintain more of a constant speed when descending – your cruise control will keep the power on for a little longer as it’s unable to see the gradient change in front of you.
‘Driving in this way regularly would lead to worse fuel consumption,’ says the RAC.
Don’t use your air conditioning unless you really have to as it uses engine power and therefore increases fuel consumption.
8. Avoid using the air-con and heater
Don’t use your air conditioning unless you really have to as it uses engine power and therefore increases fuel consumption by as much as 10 per cent on shorter journeys.
This shouldn’t be an issue during the cooler months, though using a car’s heater will have a similar impact, with it running off the engine power and therefore lowering fuel economy.
Dress accordingly for the weather, is the best advice.
9. A warm engine is more efficient, so run multiple errands in a single journey
Once an engine is warm it will operate most efficiently, whereas several cold starts will increase fuel consumption.
So if you have a number of errands or trips in a day, try to do all of them in one go.
The AA adds that the changing season from winter to spring should also help improve fuel economy.
Warmer temperatures should improve mpg ‘significantly’ with an extra three miles to the gallon ‘almost guaranteed for most’, it claims.
Having an empty roofbox fitted to the top of your car will make it far less drag efficient, which means the engine will have to work harder – and use more fuel – to counteract this
10. Lighten your car’s load
While this isn’t going to make the biggest difference to your mpg figures, emptying heavy clutter from your car will fractionally improve its fuel economy.
And if you’re not using roof bars and a roof box, take them off as it could make your motor less drag efficient.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, an empty roof rack adds 16 per cent drag when driving at 75mph. At the same speed a roof box adds 39 per cent, making your vehicle much less fuel efficient.
Driving with a window fully open also has a similar effect.
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.