Are you feeling the pinch of the rising cost of living? You’re not alone.
Most of us are looking for ways to cut back on our spending where we can.
Every little helps, and one of the easiest (but often overlooked!) ways to make some savings is to make sure you’re not paying over the odds for your petrol and diesel.
If you’re interested in finding the cheapest petrol and diesel prices in your local area, this article is for you.
We’re going to take a look at some of the reasons why the price of fuel varies so much from place to place, the websites and apps that can help you compare petrol prices, and finally some really quick tips on how you can improve your fuel economy so you don’t have to fill up so regularly!
There’s nothing more frustrating than filling up your tank at a local petrol station, only to find that you could have saved a few pounds by filling up 10 minutes down the road.
So what makes petrol prices vary so much across different forecourts?
The first thing that influences prices is retailer margins.
Every different fuel retailer decides how much profit they want to make on petrol and diesel, which is one of the main reasons why prices vary from garage to garage. The actual profit margins on petrol and diesel aren’t huge – typically between 4% and 8%. But a percentage point here and there is a key part of the reason why you’ll see a few pence difference between garages when you compare petrol prices.
As a general rule, supermarkets tend to be a few pence per litre cheaper than independent forecourts, which leads us nicely onto the next reason you often see variations in prices…local competition.
If you’re in an area where there are several supermarkets and independent garages selling petrol and diesel within a mile or so radius – there’s going to be healthy competition on price to make sure they attract enough business. It’s better for them to sell a lot of petrol at a 5% margin than none at an 8% margin – right?
On the other side of things, if there’s only one petrol station in your area and the nearest competitor is a twenty minute drive away, there’s less pressure to be competitive on price and you might see a slightly higher cost per litre. This is one of the reasons why the price of petrol is often a little more expensive in rural locations compared to towns and cities.
There are obviously other things that influence petrol and diesel prices, such as the exchange rate of the pound against the dollar and the wholesale price of fuel. But the main things that cause petrol prices to be different from garage to garage are really down to the simple factors of retailer margins and local competition.
If you’re looking to shave a couple of pounds off the cost of filling up your car, then modern technology is your best friend.
There’s a wide range of apps that can help to scan your local area and compare petrol prices near you.
Some are better than others, and you need to watch out for the accuracy of some of the apps that use crowdsourced data. But we’ve done our research, and listed three of our favourites:
Available on both Android and Apple devices, PetrolPrices is a free app that has a regularly updated database of petrol and diesel prices across the UK.
What makes this app a little different from some of the ‘crowd-sourced information’ apps you might find is that they actually consult with a variety of different sources to make sure their prices are accurate – including the stations themselves. But as a part of the community you still have the opportunity to leave reviews of different petrol stations and suggest updates to any prices.
There’s also handy features like the ability to find garages that have a car-wash or cash machine, or even set yourself an MOT reminder.
The promotional website for the app suggests that the average petrol user can save up to £205 per year, with the average diesel driver saving £240. So it’s worth checking out.
The RAC app is completely free, even if you’re not a member. It’s packed with a number of different features, including the ability to set reminders for your MOT, service, tax and insurance renewal dates, a handy route planner, and up to 5 searches of their petrol prices database each day.
This is another app that doesn’t rely on crowdsourced information for keeping itself up to date, instead using Experian Catalist to make sure it has accurate data – which we like!
Fuel.io (or fuelio) is also available on both Android and Apple devices, and it’s a great app if you’re serious about watching every penny related to your motoring.
It’s a lot more than just a fuel prices app – it helps you track how often you’re filling up your car, where you’ve driven, tracks your fuel consumption and helps you organize your driving expenses like service costs and parking charges.
The one thing to bear in mind is that the app uses crowdsourced data to power the petrol pricing database. Nothing wrong with this at all, but you might want to check the recency of updates before driving out of your way to get the best deal on petrol and diesel prices.
Saving a few pence per litre is certainly one way to start cutting down on your motoring costs.
But another way to start saving is to try and reduce your fuel consumption. Want to know how? You’re in luck – we’ve put together some handy tips.
If you’re like a lot of people, you’ve probably put your owners manual in the glove compartment of your car, and not looked at it for years. But it contains a lot of important information, such as the optimum tyre pressure for your car based on different loads and driving conditions.
Your tyre pressure is measured by pounds per square inch (psi). It’s estimated that for every 1 psi you are below your optimum tyre pressure, it can reduce fuel efficiency by as much as 0.2%. So keep those tyres correctly inflated!
Accelerating gently is one of the most important things you can do for fuel efficient driving. As a bit of a simplification, the more revs you’re doing, the more fuel you’re burning.
The RAC provides some great advice to accelerate slowly, and shift into the highest gear you can within the speed limit – ideally keeping within 2000 rpm if you’re looking for optimal fuel efficiency.
For the record, we’ve got nothing against roof racks! They can absolutely come in handy when you’re heading on holiday or taking a weekend trip away. But they are not the most aerodynamic inventions, and can put a serious dent in your fuel efficiency.
A study by Berkeley Labs found that cars with a roof rack saw a reduction in fuel efficiency by as much as 28% because of the increased drag.
We’ve got a bit of bad news if you’re a fan of turning your A/C up to the max in the summer months – this is also a common culprit for reducing your fuel economy.
Using the air conditioning and climate control in some vehicles can reduce fuel efficiency by as much as 25%, especially during shorter trips.
If you’re driving at lower speeds, it’s more fuel efficient to wind your windows down to get a bit of ventilation – although you’ll want to ignore this advice on faster roads, as opening your windows on a motorway can be worse for your fuel economy than having your A/C on.
So at lower speeds get those windows down and the A/C off! But once you’ve got your foot down on a dual carriageway or motorway, it makes more sense to push that A/C button.
You’ve put our fuel efficient driving tips into practice, you’re shopping around for the best prices on petrol and diesel – but you’re still spending a small fortune each month on filling up your car?
Maybe it’s time to consider upgrading to something a little more fuel efficient.
If you’re looking for an easy, hassle-free way to sell your car before upgrading, get in touch with Flipit. We buy any car – regardless of its age or efficiency.
We promise you a fair price, a straightforward service and a speedy payment – your cash will be in your account before we leave with your car!