Motorists who fill up their cars with petrol at motorway services are currently being charged £20 more than if they topped their tank at a supermarket fuel station, we have revealed.
With Morrisons, Asda and Tesco all lowering the price of unleaded below £1-a-litre this week, the gulf between fuel prices at motorway services and supermarkets has widened by over 36p per litre.
Data shared with This is Money by the AA also suggests that non-supermarket retailers had held back cuts for weeks, with retailers slashing prices by up to 8p-a-litre as soon as Morrisons announced sub-£1-a-litre petrol on Monday.
Service station rip-off: While some supermarkets cut the price of petrol below £1-a-litre this week, so UK motorway services are still charging up to 135.9p for unleaded
While drivers can fill their car’s tank today with petrol for as little as 99.7p-a-litre at supermarket forecourts around the country, at Taunton Deane services on the M5 the price of unleaded at the Shell station is 135.9p per litre.
That’s a staggering 36.2p difference.
Filling an average family petrol car with a 55-litre tank at a supermarket forecourt currently costs as little as £54.84, while those topping up at the M5 service station will be forking out a staggering £74.75 – a whopping £19.91 more.
To make matters worse, a Shell garage in Wellington – just three miles away from Taunton Deane services – is selling unleaded for 105.9p-a-litre (30p per litre cheaper).
The monumental gap in fuel costs is just the latest example of service stations taking motorists for a ride with inflated prices.
At Taunton Deane services (pictured) on the M5, the price of unleaded at the Shell station is 135.9p per litre – 36.2p more expensive than Morrisons and Asda
To make matters worse, a Shell garage in Wellington – just three miles away from Taunton Deane services – is selling unleaded for 105.9p-a-litre (30p per litre cheaper)
It comes as an increasing number of workers in Britain were told they could return to their jobs – if it wasn’t feasible to work from home – from Wednesday.
The Government also lifted driving restrictions for households to travel across England, to visit beaches or parks to exercise this week.
This has sparked an increase in traffic levels and more motorists making use of the nation’s motorway network that’s rife with premium-priced fuel.
This is despite former transport secretary Chris Grayling writing to the Competition and Markets Authority in 2018, calling for an investigation into motorway fuel prices.
At the time, Mr Grayling and the DfT said they were looking to launch an app which would give real-time pump prices across the motorway network, though this has never come to fruition.
Other examples of sky-high motorway services petrol prices on Thursday provided by the AA include Clacket Lane services on the M25, where the BP filling station is charging 134.9p per litre of unleaded and Killington Lake services on the M6 charging 132.9p-a-litre for petrol.
The BP station at Clacket Lane services on the M25 (pictured) is charging 134.9p per litre of unleaded on Thursday
A Shell retailer away from the M25 in Oxted is currently charging 10p-a-litre higher prices for unleaded than the UK average – and 19.2p a litre more than some supermarkets. This might be because – as the map shows – there are no supermarket forecourts in close proximity
Fleet Services on the M3 (pictured) is also charging sky-high petrol prices of 133.9p-a-litre
Incredibly, Fleet Services on Thursday charged 34.2p-a-litre more than a Morrisons fourecourt just 1.5-miles away from the motorway services
Incredibly, Fleet Services on the M3 is also charging 133.9p-a-litre for unleaded despite there being a Morrisons filling station a mere 1.5 miles away where prices are 34.2p-a-litre lower.
Morrisons was the first supermarket on Monday to announce that it was reducing the price of petrol at its forecourts to 99,7p a litre.
Diesel prices were also slashed, with drivers paying no more than 104.7p-a-litre at any of the supermarket’s 337 filling stations across the country.
Morrisons was the first supermarket on Monday to reduce petrol prices below £1-a-litre. Diesel has also been slashed across its network to no more than 104.7p per litre
Asda and Tesco also cut their unleaded prices below £1 on Tuesday – the first real price war between supermarket retailers in years
A day later, Asda matched these cuts at 322 forecourts while Tesco also promised sub-£1-a-litre petrol at over 600 stations across the country, also from Tuesday.
That’s over 1,200 forecourts across the country where drivers can fill up with petrol for less than £1-a-litre.
Sainsbury’s has yet to match rivals, still charging around 100.9p for a litre of unleaded.
The cuts have come almost two months after the price of oil crashed to record lows.
Oil prices stalled at the end of March due to a combination of factors, including the dispute between Russia and Saudi Arabia over production, falling consumption levels and economies closing down due to the coronavirus crisis.
The price of US oil plummeted into negative for the first time in history last month, with the cost of a barrel of crude delivered in May slipping to negative $37 due to oversupply and a lack of storage availability.
The AA said market analysis showed that average UK petrol pump prices dropped to 107.28p-a-litre, down from 108.48p on Monday
Motoring groups have been piling pressure on fuel retailers to cut their prices in-line with falling wholesale costs during the last two months, with campaign group FairFuelUK accusing the fuel supply chain of ‘running amok’ during the pandemic.
Supermarkets’ decision to drop petrol prices below £1-a-litre this week has not only extended the price gap between them and motorways services but also other retailers and independent garages.
Average UK fuel prices on 13 May 2020
Super Unleaded: 126.45p
The AA said market analysis showed that average UK petrol pump prices dropped to 107.28p-a-litre, down from 108.48p on Monday.
Average prices fell as non-supermarket retailers responded to the fuel price war between Morrisons, Asda and Tesco by slashing their own prices by up to 8p-a-litre.
However, there are some garages charging over 10p-a-litre more than the average, with a Shell filling station in Oxted charging 118.9p on Thursday.
There are also cases of high prices in towns, with a BP retailer in Basingstoke charging 113.9p despite there being a Morrisons less than two miles away with unleaded at 99.7p per litre.
The AA said the fuel retailer sector has let down the nation’s motorists in recent weeks, despite many forecourts diversifying during lockdown.
This map shows the huge difference between Morrisons and other fuel retailers in Basingstoke, with the supermarket priced way below suppliers Shell, BP and Texaco
Luke Bosdet, the motoring group’s fuel spokesman, told This is Money: ‘Forecourt shops and supermarkets have done a formidable job keeping locked down communities supplied with food and essentials, and we’re grateful.
‘However, on pump prices they haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory.
‘We get it that initially, with fuel sales volumes crashing, pump prices would remain high – despite collapsing wholesale costs pointing the way to £1-a-litre.
‘However, a month into the lockdown, weekday traffic rose from 30 per cent of the normal to 40 per cent and then 50 per cent. Yet, average pump prices stayed high and remained cheapest in the rural areas we were told forecourts were struggling.’
He added: ‘This week, supermarkets slashed their petrol to below £1-a-litre – the first real supermarket price war in a long time.
‘The next day, non-supermarket retailers suddenly knocked 7p and 8p off a litre of petrol. What does that tell drivers about pump prices over the previous fortnight?
‘It’s hard enough for AA members who have to go back to work running the gauntlet of coronavirus, but over-priced fuel on major roads is something the authorities already have a cure for.’