The price of petrol is typically a sore point amongst motorists, with many feeling that they are forced to pay far more than their fellow drivers around the world.

A commodity that fluctuates far more frequently than other products, petrol - and the oil it derives from - is subject to a number of different influences that set its cost.

We take a look at petrol prices around the country and consider whether they really have inflated as much as public perception suggests.

How the price is set

To explain how the price of a litre of petrol is made up, it’s perhaps easiest to give an example.

With the price at 132.9p, the duty would be 57.95p, the product 47.8p, VAT 22.15p and the portion for the retailer/delivery just 5p.

As it evident from these figures, the greatest slice of the cost is down to UK duty. This is added before VAT is calculated, pushing the total even higher.

The cost of procuring the petrol itself in our example was 47.8p; this is the cost that goes to companies to refine the fuel from the crude oil base.

The chunk that retailers make from petrol is surprisingly low; despite the rising costs, it’s not an industry which returns significant profit per unit for those who sell it.

The price of oil obviously plays a very significant role in the price of petrol and any kind of turmoil, conflict or unease in the volatile oil-producing regions is all it takes to push the price higher.

In particular, any suggestion that there may be a shortfall or a drop in the amount of oil being produced is sufficient to send prices spiralling.

Historical prices

Fuel tax is a cost which has steadily climbed over the last 15 years, not just in monetary terms but as a proportion of the overall price.

In 1995, less than 40% was taken up in charges, but by 2007 this had rocketed to more than 81% in total fuel taxes.

The unpopular fuel escalator which was introduced in 1993 by the Conservatives was a major factor which pushed the duty up even higher. This escalator was said to have been created to discourage excessive car use but was also a real money-spinner for the government.

The below graph provides an interesting snapshot of the lowest and highest unleaded petrol prices recorded over a 3-year period in the UK.

As this chart shows, prices reached a high in 2012 but since then have shown signs of stabilising and even reducing somewhat, easing the burden on drivers, and of course those businesses that rely on transport to operate.

Regional variations

Much has been made about the north/south divide in recent years with great debate on the benefits afforded to the south, the capital city in particular.

But have there been any advantages for motorists in the south east of the country?

Rather surprisingly, the price for the basic unleaded petrol is virtually identical throughout the whole of Britain, with just fractions of pence separating the cost.

However, when it comes to the more expensive fuel, the Super Unleaded, there was a discernible difference in price.

Northern Ireland was the cheapest at 136.9 pence per litre, with London costing 138.4. Scotland, Wales, East Midlands, East Anglia, the south west and the south east in general were all cheaper than the capital city for Super Unleaded.

But it was a difference story in four areas: the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside, North West and North all costing more than London, coming in at 138.6, 139.3, 141.2 and 143.3 respectively.

The above figures were pulled from the official Fuel Price Report compiled by motoring organisation AA and show that providing the entry level fuel is used; it doesn’t matter where you live in the UK.

Conclusion

Motorists have certainly had a tricky time over the last few years and there’s no doubt taxes have substantially risen, pushing up the total cost.

However, in the last five years alone, the cost of petrol has stabilised, with a small reduction being tentatively seen, sparking hopes that meteoric increases are a thing of the past.