How do I safely fill up my car with fuel during the coronavirus pandemic?

From what to take with you to how fuel prices are likely to be affected, we explain what the coronavirus pandemic means for filling up your car at a fuel station...

Mazda 6 long-term review petrol station

Although the government has asked the public to halt all unnecessary travel, if you have to use your car during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, then sooner or later you'll be faced with the prospect of filling it up with fuel.

Understandably, some people are nervous at the thought of handling a fuel pump, which could have been picked up by hundreds of other drivers beforehand, but there are simple tips you can follow to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus, or any other harmful germs. Follow our advice and, whether you drive a petrol or diesel-fuelled car, or even an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, you can stay as safe as possible while also keeping your car topped up.

Petrol prices

Use a contactless payment

Many fuel stations, including those run by big supermarkets as well as independent providers such as Shell and BP, offer contactless payments, either at the pump itself or through a smartphone app. These systems mean you don't need to talk to a cashier, and can complete your fuel purchase at the pump, meaning drivers can still comply with the rules of social distancing, because they won't be coming into direct contact with another person. 

If you drive an electric or plug-in hybrid car, then you'll likely already be familiar with contactless systems, since these are already widespread among electric car chargers.

Take plenty of hand sanitiser or wipes with you

Hand sanitiser and antibacterial hand wipes have now joined the list of essential items you should keep in your car, both for your own protection and the protection of those you come into contact with. When it comes to filling up, first make sure that your own hands are clean before you start.

Either put on disposable gloves before you pick up the fuel pump, or wrap paper towel around it; throw these away in a bin as soon as you've finished filling up. When you're done, wipe down the fuel nozzle (or electric charging connector if you're using an electric charging station) before replacing it. Similarly, wipe down any part of the fuel pump you've touched – for example, a touchscreen where you've made your payment, or the contactless card area.

Bin the wipe when you're done, and before you set off remember to clean your own hands using another wipe or hand sanitiser. The most important thing is to make sure that your hands are clean both before and after you've filled up. 

Fuel gauge

Get a full tank of fuel

While it might be tempting to only top up to with a certain amount of fuel – enough to get you through the next week, perhaps, or for an upcoming trip – it's actually better to get a full tank while you can. This means you're maximising the time before you'll need to come back for more, while also making sure your car is fully prepared for any urgent trips you may need to take. The same goes for electric cars — get a full charge, so that you won't need to come back for more every few days.

Minimise contact with other drivers or staff

If you have to go and pay in person, then do all you can to minimise contact with anyone else in the kiosk or on the forecourt. Try not to linger in the shop, and use a contactless payment method where possible. It's also advisable to avoid peak times, when more drivers will be visiting the fuel station.

Petrol station

Will fuel prices drop?

Fuel prices have already dropped significantly during the pandemic both due to falling demand and plummeting oil prices, with supermarket chains Asda and Morrisons cutting 12p off a litre of petrol and 8p off diesel respectively.  With the public told to avoid travelling aside from essential trips, expect them to fall even more soon, with some newspapers reporting that prices could fall to around £1 per litre in the coming months.

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Read more: all the latest coronavirus advice for drivers >>