Red Diesel FAQ: 49 Common Questions Answered

Red diesel is a fuel used for power generation in off-road vehicles, machinery and commercial boilers. It’s cheaper than regular diesel due to a lower tax rate applied; however, it’s important not to use it in road-going vehicles as this is breaking the law.

In the UK, red diesel is commonly used by the construction or farming sectors and in hospitals or schools for generators. It’s effectively the same as mineral diesel, it just has a red dye added so it can be identified for illegal use. You must ensure you only use this product in applications approved by UK law. To provide an insight into its usage and to ensure you’re on the right side of the law, we’ve put together a FAQ, where this and other common questions are answered below:

Common Red Diesel Questions

  1. What is red diesel?
  2. What is the tax on red diesel?
  3. Why is there a red dye added to the fuel?
  4. Can I use red diesel in my car, van, truck or other motor vehicles?
  5. Why is using red diesel in my motor vehicle illegal?
  6. What is red diesel commonly used for?
  7. Can red diesel be used as heating oil?
  8. How much red diesel does the UK use?
  9. What are the alternatives to red diesel?
  10. Why is red diesel cheaper than white diesel?
  11. What colour is red diesel?
  12. Does red diesel have any other names?
  13. What happens if I put red diesel in my car by accident?
  14. I have surplus red diesel – what can I do with it?
  15. How do I dispose of red diesel safely?
  16. How is red diesel made?
  17. What does the red dye do to an engine?

Red Diesel Laws, Rules & Tax:

  1. Do I need a licence to buy red diesel fuel?
  2. Is red diesel tax-free?
  3. Is it illegal to use red diesel?
  4. Can I remove the red dye from red diesel?
  5. How do you get the tax back from red diesel?
  6. What is the penalty for using red diesel illegally?
  7. How to report the misuse of red diesel?
  8. Who checks for red correct diesel usage?

Red Diesel Usage:

  1. Which vehicles can use red diesel?
  2. Who uses red diesel?
  3. Can you use red diesel for gritting roads?
  4. How do you store red diesel on a farm safely?
  5. Can I use red diesel for my backup generator?
  6. Can I use red diesel in a boat?
  7. Can I use red diesel in a pleasure craft?
  8. Can I use red diesel in my car if I only drive it on my farm?
  9. Are red diesel and heating oil the same?
  10. Can red diesel be used instead of business heating oil?
  11. Can red diesel be used instead of home heating oil?
  12. Is red diesel bad for my car?
  13. Does red diesel produce more smoke than regular diesel?
  14. Is red diesel flammable?
  15. Can red diesel go off?
  16. How long does red diesel last?
  17. Will red diesel make my MOT fail?

Purchasing Red Diesel:

  1. Where can I buy red diesel?
  2. Where can I buy red diesel barrels?
  3. Where can I get red diesel at the pump?
  4. How much does red diesel cost?
  5. How much does red diesel cost per litre?
  6. How much red diesel can I buy?
  7. Do garages sell red diesel?

Red Diesel

Common Red Diesel Questions

What is red diesel?

Red diesel is a lower tax fuel than regular diesel that’s used widely throughout the UK. It has the same physical properties as regular diesel (except its colour, of course). Some key industries which use red diesel include farming and construction.

What is the tax on red diesel?

The VAT (value-added tax) charged on red diesel is 5% up to 2,300 litres. This increases to the regular rate of 20% VAT above 2,300 litres; however, you may be able to claim 15% back if you are eligible for fuel duty relief. An example of this would be if you are using the fuel for horticultural produce, such as to help grow fruit, where you could be eligible to claim repayment.

For more details on fuel duty relief, we advise you to get in touch with Beesley Fuels or alternatively check the Government’s website.

Why is there a red dye added to the fuel?

In the UK, red diesel has a lower tax rate than regular diesel. To help identify illegal usage in road-going vehicles, a red dye is added to enable government bodies such as HMRC and the police to identify improper usage in random checks straight away, where the vehicle will be detained.

Can I use red diesel in my car, van, truck or other motor vehicles?

Using red diesel in a vehicle on public roads is illegal in almost all cases. There are some exemptions from this law, however. Tractors are permitted to use gas oil to grit the roads during bad weather and can travel up to 1.5km on public roads to travel between sites that may be divided by public highways.

We recommend that you check the Government’s website for specifics for your own use case to ensure you are operating within the confinements of the law.

Why is using red diesel in my motor vehicle illegal?

Red diesel is cheaper than regular diesel due to a lower fuel duty applied. The fuel is intended for business use, such as in the agriculture, construction and marine industries. To enable them to make a profit, it’s vital that they can claim certain duties, including gas oil. If you use red diesel incorrectly, you are paying the wrong tax and you will be breaking the law.

We advise people to be absolutely sure they are eligible for using red diesel and to ensure you fill in the correct documentation.

What is red diesel commonly used for?

Red diesel is the same fuel as regular diesel, so any vehicles, equipment and machinery that can be powered on DERV can also run on red diesel, as long as it’s within the law.

Some common uses include powering generators, machinery, commercial boats, off-road vehicles and commercial heating applications. We have a wide range of customers across the UK who purchase red diesel, including milk bottling factories, dairy farms, schools, hospitals and construction companies to name a few.

Can red diesel be used as heating oil?

Yes, lots of people use red diesel as heating oil, however industrial heating oil (IHO) is a low-priced, drop-in alternative, with an array of added-value benefits.

IHO’s physical properties are exactly the same as gas oil and it’s commonly used in commercial boilers, dryers and heaters as it preserves output and performance.

How much red diesel does the UK use?

In 2017, it was reported that 15% of total diesel use in the UK was red diesel. This accounts for around £2.4 billion a year in tax reductions vs if the diesel was charged at the main rate.

What are the alternatives to red diesel?

Industrial Heating Oil (IHO) is specifically designed for commercial heating applications. IHO carries zero VAT and can be used as a drop-in replacement for red diesel that can save your business money.

Carbon Offset Red Diesel carries a slightly higher price point and comes with the benefit of reducing your carbon footprint and investing in green initiatives worldwide.

HVO fuel is a clean-burning alternative which can be used as a drop-in replacement for red diesel and regular diesel. HVO fuel can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% and has up to a 10 year shelf life.

Red Diesel FAQ

Why is red diesel cheaper than white diesel?

Fuel can be a significant cost for many business sectors such as farming, fishing vessels, construction and forestry. The government lowered the duty on red diesel to support some of these industries as they can claim it back.

What colour is red diesel?

As its name suggests, red diesel is red due to a dye that’s added to identify illegal use. Regular diesel is a yellowish-clear colour (hence white diesel).

Does red diesel have any other names?

Red diesel is also known as rebated fuel, 35-second oil, medium diesel, tractor diesel, marine diesel, generator diesel, gas oil, BS 2869, or cherry red.

What happens if I put red diesel in my car by accident?

Gas oil is not intended for use on public roads, so you will be breaking the law if you put it in your car. To avoid prosecution and a hefty fine, you must contact HMRC right away. The red dye is designed so it’s almost impossible to remove all evidence from a fuel tank, so if it’s tested, it will show you have been using red diesel straight away

If you do accidentally put red diesel in your car, you may be able to pay the duty that you should have paid on regular diesel, where you will be given a receipt so you can provide proof that you’re within the law.

Ideally, don’t put red diesel in your road vehicle in the first place if you can help it!

I have surplus red diesel – what can I do with it?

If you have more than 2,000 litres of gas oil, you can take advantage of our fuel uplift service. If the fuel is in good condition, it’s possible that we can even pay you for it. If it’s degraded in quality, we can instead take it away and dispose of it safely.

If you have smaller amounts you need to dispose of, we would advise you to use a recycling company such as Slickr recycling.

How do I dispose of red diesel safely?

Our fuel uplift service is a safe and environmentally-friendly operation. Our engineers will come to your site and uplift and dispose of your red diesel for you, saving you the hassle of having surplus fuels on-site.

If you need to dispose of a small amount of red diesel which is no longer usable, your local recycling centre could offer some advice.

How is red diesel made?

Diesel is made through a refining process where crude oil is pumped out of the ground to produce a thick, black liquid. Through distillation, crude oil transforms into a variety of fuels, one of which is diesel.

To make red diesel, we simply add a red dye to the diesel.

What does the red dye do to an engine?

Red diesel is as safe to use in engines as regular diesel, however it’s important to ensure that you invest in regular tank inspections as white and red diesel are both at risk from contamination over time.

Red diesel Laws, Rules & Tax:

Do I need a licence to buy red diesel fuel?

You don’t need a licence to purchase red diesel fuel, but if you require more than 50 litres you will need to fill out an RDCO form and confirm with the company you are purchasing it from that you intend to use it legitimately.

They have the right to pass on any information about your red diesel purchase to HMRC if they suspect illegal usage.

More information on RDCO forms can be found here on the governments’ website.

Is red diesel tax-free?

Red diesel has a lower tax than regular diesel, but it’s still a heavily rebated fuel, meaning the tax applied is much lower than other fuels for off-road use. In most cases, it carries a 5% tax rate. Please view the governments’ website for more information or contact us directly if you have a query.

Is it illegal to use red diesel?

It’s illegal to use gas oil in road-going vehicles and it’s considered a tax evasion to do so. Red diesel is legal for use in off-road vehicles, machinery and commercial boilers.

Can I remove the red dye from red diesel?

Removing the dye from red diesel is illegal. It’s incredibly hard to remove and any attempt to do so is known as fuel laundering.

How do you get the tax back from red diesel?

When purchasing red diesel, the rate you pay may depend on what you’re using it for and in what quantities. To apply to get the tax back on fuel you have purchased, you can fill in the HO27 form.

What is the penalty for using red diesel illegally?

There is no fixed fine or penalty for using red diesel illegally. However, if caught, HMRC can charge you for:

  • Fuel duty not paid
  • Restoration of your vehicle’s system
  • Cleaning of your tank & filters
  • A fee for removal of the red diesel
  • The difference between red and white diesel for the duration that you have been illegally using red diesel.

Needless to say, using red diesel illegally can be a very costly mistake to make.

How to report the misuse of red diesel?

If you suspect that someone is illegally using red diesel, you can report them to the HMRC fraud hotline.

Who checks for red correct diesel usage?

HMRC and the police check for illegal red diesel use by carrying out random spot checks using a dipstick test. The chemical dye added to the fuel is designed to linger in a tank and is almost impossible to remove, so if you’ve used red diesel in the past, you could be caught years down the line.

Red Diesel Usage:

Which vehicles can use red diesel?

All diesel engines can run on red diesel; however, it should only be used for commercial applications such as generators, boilers and tractors. For example, using gas oil in a vehicle on public roads is illegal.

The government’s website lists “excepted vehicles” that are permitted to run on red diesel, including:

  • Unlicensed vehicles not in use on public roads
  • Tractors
  • Light agricultural vehicles
  • Agricultural material handlers
  • Agricultural engines
  • Agricultural processing vehicles
  • Mowing machines
  • Snow clearing vehicles
  • Gritters
  • Mobile cranes
  • Mobile pumping vehicles
  • Digging machines
  • Road rollers
  • Tar sprayers

Please note, even though your vehicle is listed above, you still need to ensure its use is within the law. For example, when using red diesel in a tractor, you are welcome to do so for agricultural purposes, including travelling to and from different places of work, as long as they are within 1.5km of each other. Any further distance and you will be breaking the law.

Who uses red diesel?

Red diesel is widely used throughout the UK in a variety of industries, such as farming, construction, data centres, events, hospitals, schools and backup generators.

One example is farmers who have a small farm and use agricultural vehicles such as a quad bike. If you only use a very small amount, a red diesel 205-litre barrel is a perfect solution as it can save you money over buying regular diesel and you only need to order a small amount.

Another example is a larger farm with grain dryers, milk bottling plants & large tractors which all use red diesel. In this case, you would have a large tank on the farm and take deliveries of up to 36,000 litres on a regular basis.

Can you use red diesel for gritting roads?

Previously, only purpose-built gritters were allowed to run on red diesel when gritting public roads. However, the highway authorities generally have to concentrate on priority routes and are unable to reach rural roads in some cases. Therefore, farmers had to refill their tractors with white diesel which was impractical when having to respond quickly to local gritting needs.

Tractors are the perfect solution for accessing remote and hard to reach areas to ensure the safety of communities.

Today, there are 3 categories of agricultural vehicles that are permitted to use red diesel to grit roads:

  • Tractors
  • Light agricultural vehicles
  • Agricultural material handlers

How do you store red diesel?

There are many options to store red diesel, depending on how much you use. For small users of red diesel, our 205-litre barrels with a spill kit and drip tray can be a simple and low-cost solution, with the added benefit of flexibility.

For large users of red diesel, the most cost-effective solution is to install a fixed oil tank onsite, allowing you to take advantage of bulk buying. All of our fuel tanks are to OFTEC standard and range in size from 500 litres to 120,000 litres.

When storing oil on-site you must ensure you conform to oil storage regulations.

How do you store red diesel on a farm safely?

A bunded tank is the most common solution and is required by law if you are storing more than 200 litres of red diesel. Upon installation, Beesley Fuels will ensure your fuel storage is safe, secure and conforms to all oil storage regulations.

Red Diesel Farm Fuel

Can I use red diesel for my backup generator?

Yes, gas oil is commonly used in backup power generators, as it’s an efficient and low-cost fuel.

When relying on red diesel for backup emergency fuel, it’s important to invest in regular fuel tests and tank inspections to check for any signs of contamination. Over time, red diesel degrades in quality which can eventually lead to a backup generator not kicking in.

An increasingly popular alternative to red diesel for backup generators is HVO fuel due to its vastly increased shelf life (up to 10 years). HVO is a synthetic diesel that has no FAME and sulphur content which means its at less risk of contamination. Please note, it’s still important to invest in regular fuel tests and tank inspections to secure the safety of your backup system.

Can I use red diesel in a boat?

Yes, but this is an increasingly complex question and it depends on if you are using it for pleasure purposes, or for a commercial application such as fishing.

Red diesel may be used for heating or power generation, but not for propulsion in a non-commercial craft. Boat owners are able to specify what % of the fuel purchased is intended for use for heating and power generation to ensure the owner pays the correct tax levy on their fuel.

We would advise you to check with the Government website for more information on using red diesel in your boat. You could also check the Royal Yachting Association website or the waterways.org website for more information.

Can I use red diesel in a pleasure craft?

You can use red diesel for heating and electricity generation on a pleasure craft, but you are are not eligible to use red diesel for propulsion under current legislation.

Can I use red diesel in my car if I only drive it on my farm?

Yes, but only if you are using it for off-road farming-related activity. You must not use red diesel in a car that drives on public roads.

Are red diesel and heating oil the same?

They are both distilled from crude oil, but they are not the same fuel.

Heating oil is also known as 28-second oil, in reference to how long it takes the fuel to pass through a specific measured hole.

Red diesel is also referred to as 35-second fuel for the same reason, so right away from these names, you know that the viscosity of red diesel is thicker than heating oil.

Can red diesel be used instead of home heating oil?

This depends on what you’re using it for. You can if it’s for heating or powering commercial machinery, but you should check with the manufacturer of your equipment to ensure it will not cause any damage.

However, industrial heating oil (IHO) is a more cost-effective alternative.
At Beesley Fuels, we produce our own high-quality IHO to ensure we supply a highly-quality product.

Can red diesel be used instead of home heating oil?

As they are 35- and 28-second oils respectively, the burners would potentially need adjusting as it burns at a slightly different rate.
Even so if it’s specifically for heating a home, domestic heating oil is likely your best option, or IHO if its for commercial heating.

Is red diesel bad for my car?

Red diesel won’t damage your car as it’s the same fuel as white diesel, just with a red dye added. There are very few circumstances where you would be able to put red diesel in a car though such as if your vehicle has done a SORN (Statutory Off-Road-Notification) – but even if you do this your fuel tank will be stained so if you ever want to remove the SORN from the car, you would run into issues when getting it back on the road legally.

Does red diesel produce more smoke than regular diesel?

Assuming your red diesel is the same quality as white diesel, it should not produce any additional smoke than regular diesel.

Is red diesel flammable?

Red diesel isn’t flammable but it is combustible. combustible. Flammable fuels are classified as a liquid that has a flashpoint of less than 100°F/38°C, whereas combustible liquids have a flashpoint of more than 100°F/38°C. This is the temperature the liquid will evaporate enough to ignite.
As red diesel has a minimum flashpoint of around 125°F/52°C, it is classed as a combustible.

Can red diesel go off?

Red diesel will stay in good condition in a tank for up to a year. It is recommended if you have any doubts about the quality of your fuel you get a trusted fuel expert like Beesley Fuels to check it for you.

Red diesel has up to 1-year shelf life, providing good storage and maintenance. It’s important to regularly check your fuel and invest in professional fuel tests and tank cleans to avoid the costly implications of contamination and tank corrosion.

At Beesley Fuels, we offer the whole package: we can come to your site, test your red diesel, polish it and clean your tank – or alternatively, if it’s too badly contaminated, we can uplift it and provide a fresh supply of red diesel.

If you need a more reliable and environmentally-friendly fuel, consider HVO fuel which has a much longer shelf life of up to 10 years.

How long does red diesel last?

Red diesel lasts up to a year in a well-maintained storage tank.

Will red diesel make my MOT fail?

If you have purchased a car which you suspect previously used red diesel, or you have ever accidentally used it this could be a valid concern.

Garages won’t specifically check for red diesel, but it’s a little hard not to notice. A reputable garage will be extremely familiar with the colour of regular diesel, and if they see you have used red diesel it would be very likely they would report you to HMRC.

If you have any doubts about your car having any remnants of red diesel from anything at all, consult your local garage about replacing your fuel tank, or replacing your car!

Purchasing Red Diesel:

Where can I buy red diesel?

You can purchase red diesel from Beesley Fuels in quantities from 205-litre barrels up to 36,000 litres in a large articulated tanker.
We can simply send more tankers if you need a larger delivery! We supply red diesel to businesses across the UK or if you’re in the area, you can alternatively collect red diesel in person from our main oil depot in Oldbury, Birmingham. Simply call %tel% to place a red diesel order today.

Where can I buy red diesel barrels?

Beesley fuels can deliver 205-litre red diesel barrels to any site in the UK. Just contact us on %tel% or fill in our form for more information.

Where can I get red diesel at the pump?

Getting red diesel from a pump is also known as a ‘wet depot’.
Your local forecourt is unlikely to supply red diesel, but some petrol stations do provide this service in rural locations.
Beesley fuels have a wet depot in Oldbury, Birmingham that you can collect red diesel from located at:

1 Engine Street
Oldbury
Birmingham
West Midlands
B69 4NL

Can you purchase red diesel in smaller containers?

You can purchase 205-litre barrels from Beesley fuels if you want a smaller quantity you should bring your own container to our yard in Oldbury, Birmingham.

Red Diesel Barrel

How much does red diesel cost?

The cost of red diesel varies depending on a variety of factors, such as:

  • Your location
  • VAT rates/Fuel tax
  • Seasonality/The weather
  • The quantity you purchase
  • The price of crude oil
  • Instability in oil-producing countries

The price of red diesel fluctuates daily, however, Beesley Fuels will always try to give you the best price we can. Your best bet is to call us directly on %tel%.

How much does red diesel cost per litre?

If you order from us our highest rates per litre are our barrel rates. When ordering a 205 litre barrel you will typically pay more than if we deliver via tanker and dispense fuel into your fuel storage facility. If you are able to order more than 2,000 litres, the price will go down again.

How much red diesel can I buy?

The minimum we can deliver to you is 205 litres in a red diesel barrel. The maximum we can deliver in one load is 36,000 litres in one of our larger tankers. If you need more we will simply send more tankers.

Do garages sell red diesel?

A garage or petrol station forecourt that sells red diesel is known as a ‘wet depot’ and there are not that many available. You can find one at our depot in Birmingham though at our listed address.

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