Thursday, July 2The place for automotive information

Cheaper off the motorway

It’s happened to us all – driving on the motorway when the fuel light comes on. The dread that fills you, as realisation breaks that the only fuel station will be at a motorway services, and the price you’ll pay is higher than anything local…

But is this the closest petrol station? Depending on where you are, a bit of research could save you a few pounds at the pump, or at the till, and on a long journey, every penny saved can add up to quite a bit..

Firstly, the question is often asked as to why motorway services can charge so much. Many believe that this is due to the fact that on the motorway, drivers are a captive audience, and those who need petrol will be forced to pay high prices. This is not true. Instead, service stations have larger overheads to pay – electricity, staff costs and maintenance for 24-hour running mean costs are higher. The petrol station is part of the larger service area, so all costs are rolled together. This is why a local 24-hour station will not charge as much, and supermarket stations with pay-at-pump even less.

There are other factors too. According to the website Motorway Services Online, in the UK, the whole facility – including the slip roads, car park and picnic tables – are funded and run by the operator. This includes any repairs to the sliproads, and even the costs of repairing the signs on the motorway must be met by them. On top of all of this, an approximate 50% of a service area’s takings are taken as tax.

Off the motorway

Petrol is certainly a necessary evil – required for even the shortest of journeys. But should you be expected to pay the highest price, when you need to make the journey? With the distance between service stations often around 20 miles, a petrol warning light coming on, or the needle dipping into the red, often means a fuel stop as soon as possible is necessary.

But, did you know that at many junctions along the UK’s motorway network, there are petrol stations within five miles that can offer fuel up to 10p a litre less than the service stations?

This is true, for example, just off the M25 Junction 2, where an Esso station sells unleaded for £1.319 per litre (June 2013). This station is only half a mile from the J2 sliproad, and just four miles from the Lakeside Services, where petrol costs £1.399 per litre for unleaded.

Four miles from junction 9 on the M1 is another Esso, selling petrol around 11p a litre cheaper than the nearby Toddington Services. If it’s only fuel you need, it’s worth investigating.


Of course service stations don’t just provide petrol, but even food prices are higher on the motorway. Restaurants and fast food outlets can often be around 30% more expensive than local options. One company looking to combat this however, is service station owner Moto. Their Moto daily deals app offers consumers a range of discounts, including up to 40% off your bill at the company’s EDC chain, or two-for-one offers at Burger King establishments on its sites.

A substantial saving can be made in this way, but if you prefer a proper meal, then Roadpal also gives details of local eateries.

If you know where to look, a deal can be done, and money can be saved. Travelling long distances need not be so expensive with the right information to hand.