Why cheap fuel could cost more than you think

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If you drive more than two miles out of your way to save a penny per litre when filling up at the pump, you’re wasting your time and your money.

This is according to our latest research which found that drivers who travel further to visit a petrol station with cheaper fuel could be collectively wasting £528 million every month.

Here’s a closer look at what this means for you…

Price versus convenience

After studying more than 600 drivers’ habits when it comes to filling up their cars, we found the biggest influence on where people refuel was convenience – with 83% of people going wherever is easiest.

An almost equal 81% said price also had an effect on their decision, which suggests drivers could be travelling to stations with cheaper fuel to save a bit of money.

The tipping point

However, after crunching the numbers we’ve found there’s a tipping point at which cheaper fuel actually becomes more expensive because of the cost of travelling to the station selling it.

For instance, it’s fine to drive two miles to get fuel that’s 1p per litre cheaper, but drive any further and you cancel out the saving completely.

Similarly, it’s worth driving up to four miles for fuel that’s 2p per litre cheaper, but any further and it’s a waste of time and money.

On the flipside, drive a mile out of your way for fuel that’s 5p per litre cheaper and you’ll save £2.32 filling a 50 litre tank – so it’s well worth it.

Try it for yourself

There’s some terribly complex number-crunching behind these results, so we’ve built a terribly clever calculator for you to work out for yourself how far it’s worth travelling for cheaper fuel.

Just tell us the price of fuel at your nearest station, the cheaper price at a petrol station further away, and then the size of your car and type of route you’ll be taking.

With that information the calculator will tell you how much you could save by travelling further – or if you should just keep it local.



fuel calculator


Click here to try it for yourself.

False economy

Dan Plant, consumer expert at MoneySuperMarket, said: “It’s no surprise cash-strapped motorists are seeking out cheaper petrol prices, especially at a time when prices are finally falling – particularly for diesel – at some, but not all, stations.

“Yet while driving a bit out of your way for cheaper fuel might seem like a simple way of cutting costs, the reality is that it can be a false economy, and could actually cost you more.

“To work out whether the detour is worth it, use our quick ‘2-for-1 rule’ – this means never travel more than two extra miles to hunt out each one pence per litre saving.

However, if you’re lucky enough to find a five pence price difference, a round trip of up to 10 miles should leave you in profit.”

Know someone obsessed with fuel prices? They’ll love our clever calculator. Click here to send it to them.

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