Choosing where to fill the car can be a costly decision for drivers as supermarkets engage in a fuel price war that means prices can differ 13p a litre within a 10-mile radius.
Supermarkets are once again engaging in pump price wars, according to AA, but primarily in Wales, northern England and Northern Ireland.
Last weekend, supermarket petrol in Ashton-under-Lyne was as much as 13p a litre cheaper (saving £7.15 a tank) than 10 miles up the road in Rochdale as a clutch of three superstores in close proximity went head-to-head on fuel, charging as little as 132.7p a litre.
In the neighbouring town, the cheapest supermarket petrol was 145.7p. And it wasn’t a one-off, according to AA.
The analysis shows that widespread pump price wars of pre-COVID years have returned as isolated and localised superstore turf wars, where fighting for customers with offers in the aisles is no longer enough.
A clear example of this was Ashton-under-Lyne versus Rochdale at the weekend. Drivers could get petrol for 132.7p a litre at Morrisons in Ashton-under-Lyne, with the local Sainsbury’s pricing it at 133.9p. Both far cheaper than BP and Texaco.
Just 10 miles away, a supermarket offers the best value for drivers in Rochdale, but Asda is much more expensive as there is no competition from other supermarkets: 145.7p.
“Discovering that supermarket petrol or diesel is £5 to £7 a tank more expensive than just 10 miles down the road is guaranteed to leave drivers livid. It just doesn’t make sense, particularly when other essentials like bread, milk and eggs are pretty much the same price wherever you go,” says Luke Bosdet, the AA’s spokesman on road fuel prices.
“Say, for instance, a supermarket lures you into their store with a voucher offering £6 off a £60 shopping bill. To find out that that supermarket clawed back all that saving, and perhaps £1 on top of that, at the pump compared to a superstore in a neighbouring town will quite rightly lead to a howl of protest.
“The retailers only get away with it because the fuel price transparency that the Competition and Markets Authority recommended to the Government in October doesn’t yet exist – except in Northern Ireland.”
Across the UK, Northern Ireland remains the cheapest region for fuel. Diesel is on average 10p cheaper than in London and the South East of England. In Wales, the price difference with southern England is 6p a litre.
Meanwhile, average UK petrol prices continue to fall this week, reaching 148.59p a litre on Wednesday, while diesel was down to 170.71p. Respectively, those are falls of 4.4p and 5.0p a litre compared to just before Christmas.
The last time pump prices were this low was in mid February of last year for petrol and early March for diesel.