/ Travel & Leisure

The great service station stitch-up

Spending and saving road sign

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.

Mark-up madness

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.

Comments
Profile photo of i_steven
Member

We know its overpriced, we know its not as well cooked, we know its not as fresh, we know we could detor off the motorway and find a better place. However, if you know all the problems but only ************* do this whats the problem with paying for the extra convenience?

Profile photo of VynorHill
Member

Use the loos, snooze and cruise.

Profile photo of richard
Member

I see we have Trolls and idiots starting

Profile photo of Hannah Jolliffe
Member

Thanks Richard, we’ve had a few issues with our spam filter recently, but are deleting anything we find that isn’t a legitimate comment!

Profile photo of VynorHill
Member

Those of us who bring a packed lunch, use the facilities for nothing. I’m sorry for the coach parties who are dumped without the option. Do lorry drivers get a cheap meal? Obviously there’s enough turn over to encourage high prices. Strange, as most people know everything you’ve written here.

Member
Margaret Cox says:
19 March 2016

I know the prices are dearer…and I thank you for your tips. I generally leave these things to the last minute…..then abandon them. I will hopefully prepare better for my next journey to Scotland. I am off to buy a flask tonight.