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Adam Jolley

UK drivers commit over 25,500 petrol thefts


With petrol prices slowly creeping back up, some drivers may be tempted to ‘pump and run’.

Man pumping fuel

Thousands of cash-strapped car-owners, it seems, have decided to risk the long arm of the law by doing a runner after filling up their vehicles at petrol stations.

In fact, motorists up and down the country committed 25,560 petrol thefts in 2015.

That’s according to new data obtained by via a freedom of information (FOI) request from police forces across the UK.

Meanwhile, a poll of 2,000 motorists shows nearly one in 10 drivers have admitted to filling up their car with petrol and driving off without paying, a practice known as “bilking”. 

Petrol prices on the rise

The news comes as petrol prices have started to rise again, with drivers typically paying 9p a litre more than at the start of the year. 

Of those motorists who have driven off without paying for their fuel, the poll shows more than one in 10 decided to hightail it as they had no means of paying.

However, not all fuel thefts are intentional, it seems. Three-quarters of people who have driven off without paying for fuel appear to have done it accidentally. Almost a fifth – or 17% – say they simply forgot to pay.

Still, only just over half of drivers who left the pump without paying returned immediately to settle their bill. 

Fuel thefts across the UK 

Of those people who have driven off without paying for their fuel, a fifth were contacted by the police to ensure their bill was paid.

Meanwhile, almost one in six – equivalent to 16% – were fined. 

Fuel retailers in the West Midlands have been hit hardest by this crafty act, the FOI data reveals. 

In the past 12 months, the West Midlands Police have recorded more than 4,000 occurrences of motorists “pumping and running”.

Police force Number of motorists who have made off without paying for fuel
West Midlands 4,027
West Yorkshire 3,825
Thames Valley 3,300
Essex 1,649
Merseyside 1,495

Drivers spend £119 per month on petrol

The research shows motorists now pay £119 a month on average to fill up their car with fuel. 

One in fourteen – 7% – even spend as much as £151 to £200 a month to keep their cars running. 

With this in mind, nearly one in 10 drivers can understand why so many motorists would be happy to commit petrol theft as they believe fuel is too expensive. 

Motorists ‘begrudge paying these prices’

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at, says: “It’s quite worrying to find out how many people across the UK have filled up their vehicle and driven off without paying for their fuel – over 25,000 motorists in 2015 alone. 

“And it’s even more shocking to see that some motorists intentionally commit petrol theft. 

“With petrol prices having risen in the last three months, it may be understandable why many may begrudge paying these prices. 

“Yet despite these rising costs, petrol theft is a criminal offence and there are severe repercussions including being arrested and charged for theft.”

Stretton adds: “To help alleviate some of these fuel costs, motorists should take the time to do their research and find out where they can buy the cheapest petrol in their area.” 


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