How to avoid service station rip-offs

Last updated: Jun 25th, 2012
Feature by Rebecca Rutt

Service stations are one of the most expensive places to buy food and drink in the UK with drivers being charged up to twice as much than on the high street.

WH Smith, Marks & Spencer and Burger King are all guilty of racking up prices at motorway service stations, according to research from What Car?

Drivers are being charged up to 91% more in some cases for food and drink and unsurprisingly two thirds of those asked said they feel ripped-off every time they shop at a service station.

Extortionate pricing

Alongside the motorway, a Burger King cheeseburger meal is 12% more expensive, Walkers' crisps will cost you 10p more at WH Smith branches and you'll pay 15% more for an M&S large sausage roll.

The biggest increases came from bottled water with a 91% increase on a 750ml bottle of Buxton water costing £1.91 compared with £1 on the high street, and 37% more for a bottle of Vittel.

WH Smith, M&S and Burger King all say their motorway outlets are franchises and they have no control over pricing.

Roadchef, a leading service station operator, says "it isn't reasonable to compare high street prices with those at motorway services" because they are situated in remote locations and have extended opening hours, so the costs associated are usually much higher.

However, Paul Watters, head of road policy at the AA, says although service stations are expensive to run, "Britain's motorway services are still too expensive, and we don't think tired drivers should be deterred from stopping for a break by high prices".

The price of petrol at motorway service stations is also higher, with a massive 7.4% increase above the national average according to WhatCar?.

Inflating fuel prices is due to lack of competition, says a BP spokesperson, who also blames higher rent, business rates and fuel transportation costs.

Have rising petrol prices forced you to drive less?

How to avoid getting ripped off

If you want to avoid paying these unnecessary costs, follow our tips to avoid being ripped off at the service station.

Take a packed lunch

Don't be forced to pay double for food and drink. Bring a packed lunch with you and stop off along the way to eat it.

Don't stop at the service station:

The websites 5minutesaway.co.uk and Offmotorway.com are handy tools for finding fuel and food outlets close to motorway junctions.

Use vouchers:

The website Myvouchercodes.co.uk usually has discount vouchers for Roadchef and Moto service stations, and Welcome Break lists its special offers at Welcomebreak.co.uk/offers.

Check out our top 10 voucher codes for this week's best discounts

Cut the price of petrol:

Type "find + cheap + petrol" into your internet search engine and half a dozen websites will tell you about the cheapest petrol stations in your area or where you are heading. One example is petrolprices.com, where you can sign up to receive regular petrol price updates.

Save £500 on your petrol bill

Do you feel as though increased service station prices are unfair? Have your say and post your comments below.

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Your Comments

If you plan your journey, there is no need to use them for anything other than using the toilets. They never get a penny out of me due to their rip off prices.

Rip Off Britain no doubt, but only for the gullible.

Also remember AA members receive 20% off at Moto Service Stations :

* Simply show your AA card to save 20% on all food and drink in the Eat and Drink Co., Costa*, Moto Shop and Burger King in Moto Service Areas.

*Discount only available at Moto concessions and excludes petrol stations at the service area

If no-one paid the inflated prices then the prices would drop - simples.

We never buy food or drink at Services but take a flask of hot water and coffee powder to make our own in the car. Supply and demand- if everyone did this prices would come down.

We never buy food or drink at Services but take a flask of hot water and coffee powder to make our own in the car. Supply and demand- if everyone did this prices would come down.

As the article suggests, motorway service stations are open extended hours, actually it's 24/7/365 and staff need to on site and therefore paid. Overheads are higher and therefore it is to be expected prices will be higher. It's little different in principle to the local convenience store that's open untill 11.00pm 7 nights per week.

Planning ahead is the key. In terms of petrol, I always ask myself at the start of a journey "Do you have enough fuel for the entire journey" If not, I fill up locally before starting out. Take food with you, take a bottle of water with you, it's not difficult to plan ahead.

I don't think prices are unfair as such and on the odd occasion when I do have buy some fuel at motorway services, isn't the extra few pence much better than the inconvenience, hassle, danger and embarrassment of running out on the motorway itself?

You guys and gals are all putting up your moans and tips against the ever rocketing fuel prices but I doubt if any of you have thought about organising against it.
Look at the Arab nations that are organising in a big way to obtain democracy, admittedly there cause is a lot greater than ours but how do you think they are doing it? OF COURSE IT IS THE INTERNET.
To hit these petrol sellers hard all you have to do is to actively boycott them en-mass totally for one week at a time. [Buy your fuel somewhere else]Then target another fuel outlet the following week.
It has to be co-ordinated and that is what the internet is for. The targets have to be hypermarkets as they are the biggest movers of fuel, and that way the message will move faster down the line to the oil providers, rural stations you dont have to bother with as they are only just making a crust anyway.
It needs co-ordinators in each town who will put up which supermarket will be hit and what week and most importantly it needs the car owners to check religiously what the target is and stick to it. Perhaps a two week boycott will get the message over quicker. Remember you are the consumer and its your money thats pouring into their coffers as long as you do nothing.
It now needs some young IT anoracks to step forward to act as co-ordinators and set up a designated Website that we can all refer to. I know its my idea and there will be some out there who will think that I should be in the vangaurd but unfortunately I am old and infirm but will support from afar if you dont mind.

Unfortunately the websites 5minutesaway.co.uk appears to be defunct, as at 29 June 2013.
This is a great pity as it has served me extremely well on numerous occasions over the years. The other site mentioned, offmotorway.com, is nowhere near so useful