Fuel shortage: What happens if you run out of petrol – and how much can you be fined?

Drivers are currently being urged not to stockpile or panic buy petrol amid rising fears about a nationwide fuel shortage.

According to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, there is no actual “shortage of fuel”, but the panic buying of fuel is spurring a decline in supplies.

This has lead to huge queues at petrol stations – and some have run out of fuel completely, causing them to close.

This was spurred on by the fact that a “handful” of UK petrol stations closed due to shortages last week due to a crisis in the number of UK lorry drivers.

The best thing is to follow government advice, and not panic buy fuel.

But to help avoid further panic, it may help to be prepared for what would happen if didn’t manage to fill your car with petrol.

How far can I drive on an empty tank?

When your fuel light comes on, it doesn’t mean you’ve run out of petrol – but that your fuel levels are low.

Although this depends on your individual car, the light will usually come on at 10-15% a tank’s capacity, according to RAC.

The distance your car will cover will also depend on the vehicle and model.

However, ongoing independent research suggest that most popular UK car models should be able to cover somewhere between 30 and 45 miles on a low tank,

When your light is flashing you should consider it your final warning to fill up on fuel.

What happens if I run out of petrol?

Drivers who run out of fuel often report feeling their car jerk or stutter as they try to accelerate, according to RAC.

You may also hear spluttering noises as your fuel pumps fail to feel the engine.

Your car might also start picking up debris from the bottom of the tank. Eventually your car will stop completely.

Is it illegal to run out of fuel?

Petrol pump
Running out of fuel in itself isn’t illegal
(Image: Getty Images)

Running out of fuel isn’t illegal in itself – but any dangerous driving as a result could see you punished by law.

For example, you could be fined £100 and get three points on your licence if you are forced to stop in the road, causing an obstruction.

If your empty fuel tank leads to an accident, you could be taken to court – or issues with nine points and an unlimited fine.


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