Panic buying at the pumps earlier this year brought the UK's long-term fall in petrol sales to a halt, figures on Monday showed.
But prices were so high that drivers cut back on consumption and this limited the long-awaited rise in sales, according to figure highlighted by the AA.
In the end the short-term rush for fuel added only three days' extra volume to petrol and diesel sales between January and March this year, the AA said.
According to new figures released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, UK petrol consumption between January and March this year rose by 2.85% compared with the same period in 2011.
But this January-March 2012 figure was down 16.64% compared with the pre-recession January-March 2008 total.
Diesel sales rose 7.87% in the first three months of this year compared with the same period last year but were still down 5.49% compared with January-March 2008.
AA president Edmund King said: "These new retail sales figures show that UK drivers spent £384 million extra on petrol and diesel during the panic buying of the last four days in March.
"To some extent, that will have continued going into April. But, with petrol prices only 1.8p a litre off the all-time high in mid April (142.48p), drivers were hammered by high prices and unnecessary panic."
He went on: "Broadly-speaking, though, the panic-buying fiasco was an extremely painful blip in an otherwise downward trend in petrol sales - still nearly 17% down on pre-credit crunch levels, due to petrol costing 21p a litre more than the peak in 2008.
"With such an horrendous start to driving costs this year, it is little wonder that 83% of 19,631 AA members told this month's AA/Populus survey that a fuel duty increase in August would have been wrong.
"At least, if the Government can deliver fuel price transparency in the UK, and after freezing fuel duty this week, it will have gone a considerable way to making amends for aggravating the panic buying this spring."