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Motorists run dry gambling on fuel levels

Press release: 27/08/2015

  • Increasing number of motorists breaking down as a result of running out of fuel
  • Many motorists overestimate how much fuel they have left in their tank when their fuel light comes on - and could run dry after as little as 26 miles
  • Traffic jams and heavy rain cause motorists more concern than their fuel light coming on
  • Motorists risk damage to car engine or potential fines by running out of fuel

More Brits are breaking down as a result of running out of fuel.

New research from LV= Road Rescue reveals that rising numbers of Brits are risking breakdown by continuing to drive long after their fuel light comes on - with 827,000 motorists having to be rescued from the roadside for this reason last year alone. This figure is 50,000 higher than the year prior (777,000 in 2013).

This is supported by LV= claims data, which shows 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 [1] motorists admit that they tend to either ignore the fuel light or don't 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 (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 [2], they would break down [see table 1]. Furthermore, men are much more likely to overestimate how far they can travel compared to women.

Fuel is expensive and as such, many motorists are getting into bad habits. More than half (54%) admit 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 (67%) say they never fill their tank to the top, with one in three (30%) admitting to filling up by as little as £5 to get them by.

More than two million motorists admit they drive with their warning light on nearly constantly, and a minority [3] 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 (FPN) in some locations, if the incident was foreseeable [4] - for example, running out of petrol, brake fluid, oil etc.

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.

John O'Roarke, Managing Director of LV= Road Rescue

Table 1. 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**

in terms of popularity

Car model

Number of miles left in the tank
after the petrol light comes on


Ford Fiesta

37 miles


Vauxhall Corsa

29 miles


Ford Focus

40 miles


Volkswagen Golf

42 miles


Nissan Qashqai

Not currently available


Vauxhall Astra

26 miles


Volkswagen Polo

39 miles


Audi A3

42 miles


Mercedes-Benz C-Class

46 miles


MINI Cooper

45 miles

*According to Auto Express
**As published on

For further information please contact:

Nicola Hussey,, 020 8253 5238 / 07468 761 128


ICM Unlimited conducted omnibus research on behalf of LV= Road Rescue among a representative sample of 2,009 Britons, of whom more than 1,500 drove regularly. This research was conducted between 7 and 9 August 2015.

  1. Source: ICM. 536,000 ignore it and 267,000 don't tend to notice.
  2. Source:
  3. Source: ICM. 7% of motorists who have purposefully driven past a fuelling station when they've needed to top up.
  4. Source:


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When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

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