Three in four motorists are travelling less far than a year ago to save money.
The economy measure was disclosed in a survey of more than 9,000 people conducted by the RAC.
Based on responses received in late November last year, the survey came at a time when petrol had slipped from its 2012 peak but reflected overall motoring costs that were still high.
Earlier in 2012, an RAC survey of more than 1,000 motorists had shown that for many households the car was an absolute necessity.
As many as 53% of people said they could only transport their children to school by car, while 57% admitted they could not do a weekly food shop and other essential activities without their vehicle.
More than half (54%) said that without their car they would be unable to get to work, while 63% would be unable to visit family members without their vehicle.
RAC technical director David Bizley said: "We know there was an approximate 12% fall in fuel sales between the first half of 2012 and the same period in 2008 and that the number of driving licence holders is still going up, yet the number of miles driven has fallen since 2008.
"It seems that many people across the UK are struggling to keep up financially and are being held to ransom by the rising cost of fuel."
He went on: "Unfortunately, our research shows that for many - particularly those living in rural communities where the local transport network is unable to support the structure of modern life - there is no alternative to using their cars for essential tasks such as food shopping and taking the kids to school."