How to avoid service station rip-offs

Service station sign

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.

Published: 10 February 2011
Last updated: 25 June 2012

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