Heading off in the car this summer? You could be paying up to 400% more for a service station lunch than you would pay in your local supermarket. So you better not leave home before reading this.
I’ve long been filling my own flask of coffee in silent protest at the low quality and high prices at service stations. So it came as quite a shock when I recently headed down the M4 with no snacks packed and found myself handing over nearly a fiver for a couple of drinks and packets of crisps.
It seems I’m not alone in feeling truly fleeced here. Recent findings from travelsupermarket.com show that a family of four could pay nearly £29 for basic sandwiches, crisps, a chocolate bar and a drink from a service station shop – over £15 more than getting the equivalent in a supermarket.
Paying a bit more for convenience I can accept, but some of the mark-ups uncovered here are unforgivable. An egg and cress sandwich costs £1.25 in a supermarket but stroll into a service station and it could set you back £2.63 – a mark-up of 110%. By far the hardest stat to swallow has to be the Ginster’s sausage roll. At a hefty £2, some service stations are applying a 400% mark-up on the supermarket price of 40p.
Other ways to save
It seems nothing has changed since Which? researched this very subject back in February. Not only did we discover the prices were higher on a motorway, we also found very few healthy options available.
So the message is loud and clear – pack a picnic to avoid being overcharged – but it’s not just food you need to watch. Our research showed other essentials (like petrol and cash withdrawals) can make your service station stop even pricier. Generally, you’ll save money if you:
- Use a fuel comparison website such as Petrolprices.com to find your cheapest local fuel station and fill up your car before you leave.
- Check for the cheapest fuel at filling stations close to motorway junctions, then enter their postcodes into your car’s sat nav system if you have one, so you can find them easily.
- Get cash from a fee-free ATM before you set off.
- Check your handbook if you’re a member of the AA or RAC as you may be entitled to a discount on goods bought at certain service and fuel stations.
There’s no doubt that I’m going back to my trusty flask and lunchbox – until service stations start offering value for money they won’t be getting my custom.