Consumers are buying less fuel at the pump, despite there being more cars on the road, according to the latest Retail Marketing Survey from the Energy Institute.

The EI estimates that total fuel sales have fallen 6% since 2002, while average fuel prices have almost doubled, rising from 73.68 pence per litre to 136.26ppl for unleaded petrol, and from 75.57ppl to 142.39ppl for diesel. 

The EI survey says the cutback in fuel sales suggests improvements in engine performance and fuel economy, combined with changes in driver behaviour; meanwhile diesel sales out-performed petrol for the second year running.

Other key findings of the EI survey reveal that:

• There were 8,693 operational filling stations in the UK at end-December 2012.

• Petrol sales fell marginally to 13.42mn tonnes by the close of 2012 – down from 13.86mn at end-2011.

• Diesel sales totalled 13.86mn tonnes by year-end – down slightly from 13.91mn tonnes a year earlier.

• Total 2012 road fuel sales fell slightly to 35.35mn tonnes – down from 35.61mn tonnes in 2011.

• By the close of 2012, unleaded petrol prices had averaged 136.26 p/l (versus 133.6 p/l in 2011); while diesel prices closed the year at an average price of 142.39 p/l (versus 138.90 p/l).

• Registered UK vehicles once again broke records, rising from 34.67mn in 2011 to reach 36.71mn by end-2012, with each forecourt supplying an average of 3,993 vehicles.

• Site number breakdown by sector in 2012:

- oil company sites decreased by 151 to 5,159

- main retailer sites increased by 423 to 1,233

- supermarket sites increased by 7 to 1,317

- smaller retailer sites increased by 2 to 62

- other unbranded sites increased by 37 to 922

• The four largest oil company operations by number of branded forecourts were (2011 figures in brackets):

- BP – 1,220 (1178) up 42

- Shell – 1,028 (845) up 183

- Esso – 907 (890) up 17

- Texaco – 787 (840) down 53