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What is red diesel, how much does it cost, and can you use it in diesel cars?

What the law says about the rebated fuel, why it’s cheaper and the fines you face for misusing it

Upcoming changes to the law on red diesel have brought the fuel into the news recently.

From next month the rules on what businesses and vehicles can use the special fuel are changing, removing permission for huge elements of the economy.

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However, there is still much confusion about who can and can’t buy or use the fuel and whether it is legal to use it in regular cars, so here is the lowdown on red diesel.

What is red diesel?

Red diesel is fuel intended for use in vehicles that don’t use public roads.

In general, this means tractors and other farm vehicles, as well as vehicles used in forestry, fish farming and horticulture not registered for on-road use. Currently, it can also be used in other sectors, including for construction vehicles, but changes to the law will ban this from 1 April.

It can also be used for generators and heating of non-commercial properties such as homes and churches.

It is essentially the same as the “white” diesel used in cars and other road vehicles but treated with a special dye to make it easy to identify.

This is because diesel intended for off-road use is “rebated” - taxed at a completely different rate from that for road vehicles.

Fuel duty on white diesel is set at 57.95p per litre while on red diesel it is just 11.14p per litre in order to reduce business’ operating costs.

How much does red diesel cost?

Like regular diesel and petrol, prices of red diesel are reported to have rocketed in recent weeks.

Suppliers are currently quoting around 123p per litre for the fuel, excluding VAT.

Is it illegal to use red diesel in cars?

Yes. While diesel cars can run safely on the fuel, it is against the law to use it in any road-going vehicle.

If you are found to have filled a road vehicle with red diesel or used a road vehicle fuelled by red diesel you can be fined £250 and customs officers could seize your vehicle.

If they do so, they can then issue an assessment of fuel duty payable and a wrongdoing penalty based on the extent of your illegal fuel use.

In more serious cases involving assault, repeated offending or dishonesty, offenders face unlimited fines and up to seven years in prison.

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