A rising number of drivers are running dry because of gambling on fuel levels

27th August 2015


An ever increasing number of British motorists are risking breaking down by continuing to drive long distances way after their fuel light has come on, claims new research from LV=.

The insurer’s analysis highlighted that 827,000 motorists had to be rescued from the roadside for this reason last year alone – some 50,000 higher than the prior 12 months.

LV= own claims data, showed that the number of motorists breaking down as a result of running out of fuel has risen year-on-year since 2011, as drivers gamble on covering extra miles after the fuel light has come on.

Almost a million motorists admit that they tend to either ignore the fuel light or do not notice it is on – and most say they are more concerned with traffic jams, heavy rain or getting lost, than they are running of out fuel.

Although many motorists do notice the warning light, a significant proportion overestimate how much fuel they have left in the tank, with one in four, at 24%, believing they can drive for more than 40 miles after the light has illuminated. The truth is if they were driving half of the UK’s most common car models, they would break down. Furthermore, men are much more likely to overestimate how far they can travel compared to women.

Surprisingly more than half, at 54%, admitted to having purposefully driven past a petrol station when they needed to top up their tank in the hope of finding cheaper fuel elsewhere. Most, at 67%, said they never fill their tank to the top, with one in three admitting to filling up by as little as £5 to get them by.

More than two million motorists said they drive with their warning light on nearly constantly, and a minority try to avoid paying for fuel in the hope that a family member will pick up the tab.

Apart from the obvious inconvenience for the motorist and other road users in the event of a breakdown, the driver can also be issued a Fixed Penalty Notice in some locations, if the incident was foreseeable, for example, running out of petrol, brake fluid, oil etc.

John O’Roarke, managing director of LV= Road Rescue, said: “Having to buy expensive motorway fuel can be frustrating, but if it saves you the stress of running out of petrol and potentially causing damage to your engine then it’s worth the cost. Roadside assistance is there to help should a motorist find themselves in a sticky situation – but being diligent with topping up soon after the light comes on will help to avoid the headache that a breakdown can bring.”

The top 10 most common cars in the UK in 2015 and how much petrol they have left in the tank after the petrol light comes on

Ranking, in terms of popularity Car model  Number of miles left in the tank after the petrol light comes on 
1 Ford Fiesta 37 miles
2 Vauxhall Corsa 29 miles
3 Ford Focus 40 miles
4 Volkswagen Golf 42 miles
5 Nissan Qashqai Not currently available
6 Vauxhall Astra 26 miles
7 Volkswagen Polo 39 miles
8 Audi A3 42 miles
9 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 46 miles
10 MINI Cooper 45 miles



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