Is it worth going the extra mile to save money on petrol?

Plus the tools to help you find the cheapest petrol station near you.

Prices at the pumps recently hit the highest levels since 2013, with the average price last week 134.7p per litre – and going as high as 163.5p per litre in some parts of the UK.

And prices can vary massively even a short distance of each other. My closest pumps right now are actually the cheapest at 129p per litre, but a mile in the other direction and it’s an extra 8p per litre.

So it goes without saying that saving money on petrol is a good thing. Or at least it should.

I’ve wondered for ages just how much difference a few pennies per litre makes to my wallet. Is it really worth spending the time tracking down the cheapest petrol stations and going out of your way to fill up there?

The cost of filling up our car

We have a Ford Fiesta, which according to the book has a fuel tank capacity of 42 litres. On current average prices it’d cost a huge £55.86 if the tank was completely empty (though of course it rarely is).

Every penny difference in the price of a litre adds up to 42p per full tank. So a difference of 5p per litre on a full take would be £2.10. It’s not a huge amount, but do this every week and it’s more than £109 saved in a year.

Difference in pricePer tankPer year (fill up once a week)
1p42p£21.84
2p84p£43.68
3p£1.26£65.52
4p£1.68£87.36
5p£2.10£109.20

The cost of going out of your way

If it’s an easy choice to find cheaper pumps then it makes sense to go to that petrol station. But what if your nearest one is more expensive and you have to go out of your way to find cheaper fuel?

Let’s assume the cheapest pumps are 2.5miles away, but not on a route you’d normally take.

A quick google and I got a figure of 47 miles per gallon for the average “real” MPG (Miles Per Gallon) for our car. Let’s assume that’s right.

So to go 2.5 miles it’d cost 32p in petrol (based on 133p). But if this is out of the way, let’s say it’s really an extra 5 miles as we’d need to come back on ourselves. So that’s 64p for the journey.

Well that cost would mean if we’re only saving 1p per litre, travelling those 5 miles would actually cost more money (and that’s not taking into account the time it takes). More than 2p saved and it does bring savings on this particular example.

Watch me talk about petrol prices on Shop Smart Save Money in June 2018

When it is worth going to a cheaper petrol station

Of course the actual saving you can make does depend on a few factors.

First if the cheaper station is on your way then the using it is a no brainer. And if you’re a regular on the same route you’ll get to know what stations are where and how they compare.

Though the distance you need to travel reduces savings, if you’re out in the sticks then you will likely pay more locally so it could even be worth driving well out of your way to fill up.

It also depends on both your miles per gallon and total fuel consumption. But ultimately the more petrol you use, the more money you’ll save. Even very small savings each time you get petrol can make a big difference over a year.

How much will your car cost to fill up?

If you want to work out the difference a penny at the pumps makes, it helps to know the size of your fuel tank. Here are the average figures, and some example prices to fill a tank from empty.

Small car – 40 litres

£1.30 per litre is £52 to fill up

Medium car – 55 litres

£1.30 per litre = £71.50 to fill up

Large car – 65 litres

£1.30 per litre = £84.50 to fill up

You can use the BBC fuel price calculator to work out exactly how much it’s cost. You’ll also see a comparison to the rest of the UK and selected other countries for what you pay.

Another useful tool is the fuel economy calculator. This calculator can work out a journey cost, how much fuel you’ll need for a journey and the real-life MPG.

How to find the cheapest petrol near you

As a general rule, supermarkets tend to have the lowest prices, though these can vary massively from town to town.

If you’re just driving around and realise you need more petrol but pumps are really expensive (eg motorway service stations), just put in enough to get you home (and a bit more). You can then fill up the rest when you see cheaper pumps.

Don’t forget to look at both sides of the road. It always amazes me how petrol stations on opposites sides of the same road can sometimes have massive differences in price per litre.

There are also a couple of websites which compare the prices of petrol based on whatever postcode you enter. These can be handy if you know in advance you need to fill up but they’re less useful if you’re driving!

PetrolPrices.com

You have to register to use this, and the free version gives 20 searches with five results.

Register to use the PetrolPrices.com website

Confused.com

A completely free service which covers 83% of petrol stations. You can expand your search to a 25-mile radius. As standard you get five searches per month.

You get 20 searches per week if you register, with five results per search.

> Try the Confused.com petrol price comparison tool

3 thoughts on “Is it worth going the extra mile to save money on petrol?

  1. Is the difference between supermarket fuel stations versus traditional suppliers (BP, Esso, Shell, Gulf, Texaco) make a material difference to the mileage you can obtain? I have heard people say long term the traditional fuel suppliers are better for the engine as their fuel contains additives.

    1. Hi Andrew. This is useful from Which. Seems like there’s very little difference unless you have a performance car https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/09/supermarket-petrol-quality-what-you-need-to-know/

  2. A good way to check local petrol prices for free is to use the Waze app. If you click the petrol pump icon in the search bar, it shows a list of local stations, their distance from you, and the current price of petrol and diesel. The prices are colour coded to give an idea of where the best deal is.

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