Various bodies track the pump price of fuel across different European countries. Britain's AA publishes a monthly survey of reported costs, covering both the UK regions and other countries. Apart from showing a lot less variation between UK regions than you might expect, it highlights the predictable (Norway obscenely expensive, Spain and Poland pretty cheap), but also some surprises: the Dutch consistently have to pay the most for petrol, whereas just about the cheapest fuel in Europe is not that far away, in Luxembourg - see side panel on the Wonder that is Luxembourg.
Position as at August 2020 (to be updated once borders open up again)

World oil prices are bobbing around the $45 a barrel level now, so pump prices aren't as frightening as they have been in some recent years. But, notwithstanding the current € rate, you'll get away with paying less for petrol in much of Europe - and in countries like Spain (or Luxembourg) you can get a real bargain (see chart below). Only 11 other European countries charge more than the UK at present, with Germany and even Switzerland now having lower petrol prices. France is a little bit higher, but, amongst countries you're likely to be touring, it's Italy and the Netherlands that really push the pain barrier.

As for
diesel, the UK is back to being just about the most expensive place in Europe, with a handful of countries coming in higher. Interestingly Italy no longer charges more, even though they really do slap the taxes on there too. Diesel prices here are back to being a fair bit above our petrol price (perhaps because of falling demand and higher production costs) –whereas just about everywhere else (for policy reasons best left forgotten) charges less tax on diesel than on petrol.
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High fuel prices in recent years have been cited as a reason not to take the car to the Continent. But with oil now priced at around $45 per barrel, car travel is competitive in cost terms with other forms of travel. And a bit of planning - using the right sort of petrol stations, and more importantly, where possible, filling up in the right countries, can lead to some worthwhile savings. Price comparisons with the UK are very much steered by the exchange rate, but we've tended to be amongst the more expensive countries - see charts below and right.

Differences in tax policies are of course the main reason for the wide variations in fuel prices. Just about anywhere you go it is Governments rather than the oil companies themselves that are raking it in when you pay at the pump.

Advice on where to buy
within a country is pretty much the same as you would follow at home: try to avoid the two extremes of service areas on motorways (whether you've had to pay for the privilege of using the road or not) and isolated rural facilities. Better to seek out the more suburban sites which the majority of locals go for, including of course the supermarkets. These are particularly advantageous in France: the hypermarkets outlets may be shabby, tricky to access within the development, and often inefficient (many still run a cumbersome security system which only unlocks the pump for your use when the previous customer has got to the head of the queue and paid), but the saving of a euro or two on a full tank is probably worth the effort. Some countries, such as Luxembourg and Croatia, have fixed prices (how does this get past the competition authorities?).

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On any route that takes you through eastern France, southern Belgium or into central Germany it's worth assessing whether it's worth making a modest diversion to pick up the delights of Luxembourg. The northern half of the Grand Duchy has pleasant wooded scenery and small towns clustered around ruined castles; there are attractive drives through vineyards along the Mosel in the east (and the chance to stop off in the village of Schengen, hated by barrier manufacturers across Europe); but the rest of the country is rather duller, and still heavily industrial along the French border, although the capital offer some compensation if you like gorges.

But the main reason to stop off in Luxembourg is to fill up with petrol, for some 25 cents a litre cheaper than in neighbouring France. It's a very high cost country otherwise, so the low fuel price is purely a result of tax differentials. Allegedly it's the consequence of government policy to support the Grand Duchy's own potentially disadvantaged border regions (yes, even Luxembourg needs a regional policy).

By the way, the price of fuel is fixed by the Government, and so, unusually, there is nothing to be gained from seeking out petrol stations off the motorway. Best go with the flow and fill up on the (toll-free) motorways. The Aire de Berchem service station just south of Luxembourg City (pictured) has reportedly the highest fuel sales of any retail outlet in the world - over 200m litres per year). Or aim to head through the remarkable strip of petrol stations on the eastern, Luxembourg side of the road in the ugly village of Martelange on the main N4 through the Belgian Ardennes - photo here:
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