Motorway service stations have been accused of ripping off drivers by charging up to £16 more for a tank of fuel than nearby filling stations.
Research has shown that the worst offenders are charging up to 37p per litre more than other forecourts only a few miles away.
Kitty Bates of fuel price information service PetrolPrices.com, which carried out the study, said motorway service areas were taking advantage of a captive market and urged drivers to venture off the motorways to find a better deal.
Charging over the odds
The comparison of prices found that Leicester Forest East services is charging 37p per litre more for diesel than Sainsbury’s Fosse Park filling station which is just 2.1 miles away. That means filling the 42-litre tank of a Ford Fiesta – Britain’s best-selling car – costs £16.38 more on the motorway.
For unleaded, Bridgewater services on the M5 in Somerset is charging up to 29p per litre more than Sainsbury’s Bridgewater, which is just 2.5 miles away – making a full tank £12.18 more expensive.
While Britain’s supermarkets recently embarked on a series of fuel price cuts, Ms Bates says motorway services tend to ignore wholesale price trends and maintain their prices all year round.
She commented: ““Our research shows that many motorway service stations are pricing their fuel well over the odds.
“Motorway service areas have long been overpriced because operators know that motorists have to fill up there, and they have a captive audience, so they charge a similar rate year round, regardless of the fluctuations in the wholesale industry.
“Their argument is the costs are higher, which is something the government has been saying that it wants to investigate for quite a few years now. However, until this takes place, we would encourage drivers to find the best fuel deal local to them, or along their intended route, before they set off using a service such as PetrolPrices.com.
For too long millions of UK motorists have been stung by extortionate motorway service area fuel prices.”
The study found that a five-hour journey from Maidstone to Cornwall would cost £150 if the driver filled a 50-litre tank at Clacket Lane services on the M25 and then Exeter service station on the M5. However, drivers could save £20 by pulling off the motorway and refilling at the Shell pumps in Godstone, Surrey, and the Tesco Extra in Exeter Vale.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has previously accused fuel retailers of taking advantage of drivers and called for them to share the prices at all motorway forecourts via an app so drivers can plan journeys and work out where to get the cheapest fuel.
However, Ms Bates said that only providing prices at motorway services would not help drivers.
She said: “For Chris Grayling to suggest a live fuel pricing service for motorway service areas seems almost pointless. A trial on the M6 a year or so ago made no difference to prices, as no alternative cheaper station was shown. We’ve researched this before and know that for around 11 MSA’s (motorway service areas) there’s a station less than a mile off that is much cheaper than the MSA itself.”