Fuel prices have reached their highest level for more than three years, hitting millions of families and businesses.
The average price of petrol and diesel on British forecourts rose by almost 3p a litre last month to levels not seen since late 2014 as the rise in the oil price was passed on to drivers, according to the RAC.
Rival motoring group, the AA, said 38 per cent of its members are driving less, or have reduced family spending in recent weeks, as they feel the pinch. This includes 55 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds.
The average price of petrol and diesel on British forecourts rose by almost 3p a litre last month to levels not seen since late 2014 as the rise in the oil price was passed on to drivers
The surge in the cost of fuel last month came as the price of oil jumped 12 per cent to more than $75 a barrel.
It is feared that fuel prices will rise even further in the coming weeks as a cocktail of international issues drives crude higher.
Analysts warned that oil could soar by another 20 per cent if the United States reinstates crippling economic sanctions on Iran over its nuclear energy programme.
Iran is the third-largest oil producer in Opec behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and sanctions are likely to reduce Iranian oil exports by around 1m barrels a day.
‘If that happened, Brent prices could jump to near $90,’ said Tomomichi Akuta, a senior economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting in Tokyo.
‘The outlook for fuel prices is not good at the moment as the oil price is well over $70 a barrel.
And if the US does try to reimpose sanctions on Iran and supply drops, motorists will end up paying far more,’ said RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams.
‘Our current two-week prediction is for prices to go up by a penny or so, but this could quickly get worse if oil gets more expensive and the pound weakens further.’
Research by the RAC shows the average price of a litre of unleaded petrol rose by 2.74p last month to 123.20p while diesel was up 2.94p to 126.02p.
It was the biggest increase since December 2016 and took prices to the highest level since late 2014.
The cost of filling up an average family-sized, 55-litre car with petrol is now nearly £68, which is £4.50 more expensive than it was last July.
For diesel car drivers it’s worse, with a tank costing over £69 – up £5.50 since last summer.
‘A 12 per cent surge in the price of oil from $67 a barrel to $75 has cost motorists dear,’ said Williams.
‘A 3p-a-litre rise at the pumps is fortunately fairly unusual, but it’s definitely bad news as it means drivers are now paying 8p more a litre than they did last summer.’
Motorists have endured a rollercoaster ride in recent years as the price of oil swung wildly.
Crude peaked when it was trading at nearly $150 a barrel a decade ago and at around $115 in the summer of 2014.
But oil fell below $28 a barrel in early 2016 as booming production in the US depressed the cost of crude around the world.
Since then, Opec members led by Saudi Arabia have joined forces with Russia to limit production to drive prices higher, and oil was trading at around $73 last night.
Geopolitical uncertainty, including the prospect of Donald Trump refusing to renew the Iran nuclear deal later this month, has also pushed up prices.
The rise in petrol prices will be felt by millions of families who are planning trips this Bank Holiday weekend.
The RAC estimates that families will make 8.5m trips by car over the weekend.
Those filling up in London and the South East will pay the most, according to the RAC.
Unleaded is most expensive in the South East, at an average of 124.05p a litre, followed by London at 123.79p.
Petrol is cheapest in Yorkshire and the Humber at 122.48p.
Diesel is also most expensive in the South East, at 126.79p a litre, and cheapest in Northern Ireland, at 125p.