For several years now, UK drivers have been broadly able to count on supermarkets to provide them with significant price savings on fuel. A succession of price wars, often linked to vouchers and loyalty schemes, have often (but not always) seen supermarkets offer fuel at the lowest prices around.
However, in a surprising development, it seems the supermarkets have decided to edge away from this price battle.
We’ve noticed this phenomenon at PetrolPrices.com over the past few weeks, when familiar searches on our apps have pointed us to brand-name petrol stations instead of the supermarkets we’ve become used to seeing (and using to fill up!)
It’s not only us who’ve noticed. The AA’s own Fuel Price Report has confirmed that the gap between supermarket and name-brand fuel pricing is narrowing significantly, a fact reported on by several news sources including The Daily Mail.
The AA’s report specifically highlights Jet forecourts, which in recent times have started to undercut Sainsbury’s petrol stations in some places.
Have supermarkets abandoned the price war?
This interesting development has caused us to wonder about possible reasons for the apparent strategy change from the supermarkets.
Potential reasons that spring to mind include:
- Supermarkets finding themselves with less flexibility to tweak their prices “on the fly” due to relatively stagnant exchange rates and oil prices.
- A concerted effort from other fuel retailers to narrow the pricing gap.
- A policy change dictated by customer behaviour. Essentially supermarkets often discount petrol to lure customers into their stores for other purchases. However, doing this is less compelling when consumers are economising and paying off Christmas debt in February, than when they’re filling trolleys with seasonal goods.
A report in The Sun suggests something along the lines of the third scenario, saying that the supermarkets seem to have decided to stage their price wars around the items on the supermarket shelves rather than the liquid in the petrol pumps.
What happens next?
Obviously the big hope is that this lull in supermarket activity is merely the calm before the storm of a petrol price war, but there’s not really anything beyond optimism that points to this being the case.
The Sun’s report quotes one retailer saying that fuel sales fell “off a cliff” last month – something not particularly surprising when comparing December with January. However, only time will tell how long people will tighten their belts for.
The one thing that is for certain is that finding cheap fuel is not as straightforward as heading for the nearest supermarket. It’s now quite possible that you’ll save money by heading to an independent forecourt or even one of the “big name” petrol stations instead. Make sure you use our free service before you next fill up.
Have you noticed local garages undercutting the supermarkets in your area? Share your experiences in the comments below.
No, it is just that sainsbury have decided to add 2p to a litre.
Hopefully everyone will stop using them.
I was thinking the same yester day when passing a BP station near Northwich. Picked up derv at 121.9. The nearby supermarkets were both the same price.
I haven’t picked up from the supermarkets since May 2016 after my DPF failed.
I often wonder if Asda fuel stations are cheaper than Sainsbury because asda is part of Walmart in europe and have many more fuel sites….
Morrisons, after a recent period of fuel pricing similiar to others, is now offering fuel at a comparative 2 or 3p discount.
Greedy government and more greedier fuel forecourts but it is not just fuel is it, it’s everything, this is a country full of greedy people, all wanting to be millionaires before they retire, they are not bothered about what people can afford it is ” F*** the rest I am filling my pockets “, look after number 1 bugger the rest.
No. Just the goverment – see my comment on the true facts.
I remember when the UK went Decimal and joined the E.U. on both occasions “Profiteering” became rife. Due to the long drawn out process of Brexit I believe it has already begun again. UK energy suppliers have done it shamelessly for years. Before it’s too late, let’s make profiteering a criminal offence, Take away directorship annonimity, make M.P,s disclose any and all Commercial connections however tenuous. Then perhaps the British public will cease to be ripped off
We have regularly filled up at Sainsbury’s ….. but recently we have noticed a big rise in their prices …. as much as .03p more expensive than Morrisons ….. so where do we do our shopping now ….. Oh, it’s still Lidl …..
My local Sainsburys (where I work) charges 123.4p per litre for diesel but it’s only 118.9p per litre in the Jet station1 mile from home. 4.5 p per litre difference. Guess where I fill up.
To be honest though I haven’t used Sainburys for fuel for years as not only are they normally more expensive for fuel but they do not offer pay at the pump which I much prefer. So much easier.
We always shop & fill up in Sainsburys in Cardiff. But they are now the most expensive supermarket. Also more expensive than two Texaco garages around the corner & even Tesco in Camberley, Surrey. Filled up in Asda yesterday. Loyalty only counts for so much.
I would also add that the quality of the fuel sold on Supermarket Forecourts; a friend of mine works at a local VW dealer as a Master Tech and he has seen a steady trickle of vehicles (mostly diesels) being brought in with running difficulties, the issue is blocked EGR valves where this has been traced back to the vehicle owner only using Supermarket fuel.
Yes Sainsburys prices are ridiculous. Have not filled up there for over a month, so obviously I am shopping where I get my fuel. I use around 100 litres per week so price is important to me. Tesco and Morrisons sem to offer the best value so thats where I spend my money.
Yes, Morrison’s is second best supermarket for fuel. This and my previous comment refer to Harrogate Yorkshire.
The best thing that has happened in Northamptonshire where I live is an Asda station appearing in Rushden. They are consistently cheaper than the other supermarkets and independents and that forces them down to a penny or two dearer than Asda which they hope will deter people from driving to far to get the discount.
In Tamworth, Staffordshire, Sainsburys sell unleaded at £1.18 despite being in view of Asda petrol station where it is £1.15. Still lots of people buying petrol from Sainsburys though!
Sainsbury`s has become an expensive supermarket to buy groceries and general household products let alone fuel for vehicles. I don`t shop there anymore. Asda, Tesco and Morrisons are still competitive on fuel prices in my area The West Midlands.
True. I often go to ASDA as the cheapest supermarket for petrol. If we are at Sainsbury’s for groceries etc we get Nectar points with our petrol. But there is a brand-name fuel station (Jet? – can’t remember the name but we know where they are) even nearer our home which is sometimes a penny/litre cheaper. It varies so I don’t go to the brand-name but I will when it is reliably 2p/litre cheaper.
Recently returned from Alton Hants. Best supermarket price there 123.4 (Sainsburys), but several BP/Shell garages in the area offering unleaded at 121.9. Glad to get back to Harrogate, where both Asda and Morrisons offering 115.7/115.9!
I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that our local Sainsbury’s has been more expensive than the nearby BP garage and even a Shell garage in the next town Up until then Sainsbury’s could be relied on to be the cheapest in the area
Very much something not mentioned – area! Here in Solihull, seen as ‘posh’ Supermarket fuel prices are high, my local Sainsbury’s is £1.229/Litre for unleaded petrol. But, nearer Birmingham in areas not seen as posh, I just filled up at a Tesco (Yardley) for £1.159. And, as shown on Petrol Prices, it’s been like that for weeks. Sainsbury’s are also being choosey in sending out vouchers to some customers (those not going to shop there regularly, for up to 7p per litre off.
So Sainsbury’s are selling fuel cheap, but only via the loyalty scheme.
You forgot to add that the Monkspath Tesco also uses ‘area’ to add a couple of pence a litre!
But, as others have said, this article should really be aiming at Sainsburys who seem to have become expensive in most areas. Mind you, they are expensive for most things, not just fuel.
Where I live, it is still cheaper in my local Tesco and petrol stations near me.
Message coming through is don’t use expensive supermarkets. You won’t beat Asda or Morrisons. The rest expect to be ripped off.
Having just finished a week of driving up and down the country, I do not know where this story comes from. All the supermarkets seem to charging £1,19 or less while the big boys seem tothink £1,23 is the norm. Obviously the trunk road and motorway stations are well over the top at £1,26/27so it is worth a smal detour to the nearest supermarket for me.
always used sainsburys as they where the second cheapest in my area behind asda. the bonus was you got nectar points.
however in the last month or so sainsburys has jumped up so much they are the most expensive supermarket. its only 1p behind the branded filling stations at 120.9 for diesel. Shell is 121.9.
morrisons seem to have stepped up their game. they are now like for like on a par with asda. with 167.7 currently. 4p cheaper than sainsburys.
Never mind the supermarkets or the oil companies, when is someone with a spine going to challenge this bloody money grabbing government on their extortionate 190% in taxes added at the pumps for motorists? They are the ones that rip everyone off more than anyone else including the oil companies and supermarkets combined.
Sorry I forgot NO-ONE IN THE UK HAS A BLOODY SPINE, that includes the motoring organisations.
Stuart Jones mentions the quality of the supermarket fuel, well, in my experience while working as a tanker driver hauling petrol and diesel for all well known supermarkets and for several high street brands, allmy deliveries of fuel all came from the same distribution depot in Bristol irrespective of the destination, the only difference in each loads for supermarkets and the highstreet names were some of the addatives each company required fuel to be dosed with before filing the tanker. You can buy different grades of fuel at the pump so I would suggest thats why the VW tech says that and also pottering around town at low speeds is especially bad for EGR valves.
Locally, Tesco’s now only price to the lowest ‘brand’ filling station but in the bigger towns, Ipswich or Bury St.Edmunds there is still a difference of about 3p ltr.
I’ve seen this phenomenon appearing too with majors about the same price as supermarkets broadly. Still one or two pennies off if you use this app. morrisons seems cheapest in my north London area. It seems the supers don’t think it worth competing on petrol prices any more. This mobile app initially very disappointing but now works very well thank you fubra. Would be very interested in your take on whether petrol quality is better in the majors than the supermarkets. Some reports seem to suggest you get better quality – and therefore mileage – from the oil companies forecourts. Not sure if it’s fake news though….
Keep up the great work
Re the comment about Supermarket fuel & blocked EGR valves. I have alot of cars bought to me for the same reason & we have no Supermarket selling fuel within 40 miles so most drivers are filling from the Premium companys. It is my experience that most of this is caused by diesel owners doing short journeys, it takes 25 to 30 miles to fully warm up a diesel. I used to use a diesel & my shortest ourney was 15 miles & I had to remove the EGR every year & it always needed cleaning & it was running on premium fuel, low distances on diesels also causes problems with swirl flaps if fitted, & blocks DPF’s quicker. School runs the quick run to the shops are death to diesel systems.
In reply to Peter, mute point, my mechanic is convinced that choking up of turbo waste gates is a consequence of many short journeys as you suggest, but is also convinced that short journeys combined with 10% ethanol in supermarket fuels is the real cause?? He maintains that if you hammer up and down the motorway the ethanol doesn’t cause a problem, but it does if you use the engine for lots of short journeys. He replaces one or two turbos a week and always asks the customer where they buy the fuel. Most reply Sainsbury’s. Our golf did do several short journeys between long motorway runs, so it’s hard to say from our experience, but we always filled up at Sainburys!
Can anyone give us all an informed opinion on this and put it to bed for good? There seem to be so many conflicting views on the cause.
Get a new mechanic. If he doesn’t know that Diesel in the UK contains NO ethanol what does he know? Petrol contains 5% – which will rise to 10%. Supermarket fuel may contain different additives (as do all brands) but the base fuels are all the same.
If you factor in the damage done to turbochargers from the added ethanol in Supermarket diesel it works out cheaper in the long run to buy branded! It completely choked up our diesel golf – £800 for a new turbo! We don’t use supermarkets for fuel any more! Shouldn’t our fuel retailers tell us what is in the fuel like they do in Australia so we can make an informed choice?
Thanks for this article as I wondered what was going on in Melksham, Wiltshire, where the local Sainsburys for all the years I have lived here (12) has been by far the cheapest in the area. But over the past few weeks, it has gone to being the most expensive, with diesel at 1.24 against 1.19 at nearly all the others. Funny old world we live in!
Sainsburys prices here in Eastbourne used to always be competitive but have recently jumped up to about 2p per litre more expensive – could their vouchers for schools be another factor in why they aren’t trying so hard to be best price?
if you are a costco member near trafford park. from the 28th of this month petrol will be 4p a litre less than asda.
In my area we have a Tesco supermarket station, and a BP Chain station. For some time now the BP has usually been only 1p more expensive than Tesco (plus the incentive of Nectar points, and sometimes double points).
I’ve always followed the examples of local cabbies who prefer “branded” fuel to places where they probably get their supplies from the spot market,
Prices are all over the shop. I went to BP last night and it was £1.18 per litre. About 10 minutes later I drove by an Esso and it was £1.24. A little further on, Tesco was £1.22. Still cheaper than the Esso but 4p more than BP (which I believe is always the most expensive – although they proved me wrong last night!)
In Chesterfield Sainsburys, Tesco & Morrisons all have filling stations and until recently all were showing exactly same prices.
Yesterday I noticed that Tesco were asking 1p/l more than Morrisons and Sainsburys 1.4p more than Tesco
I tend not to use any of them but instead use a local fuel supplier who have recently installed a DERV pump at their depot which offers premium grade DERV at approx. 1p/l less than supermarkets charge for ‘ordinary’ DERV
Where I live around St Helens, have not noticed this at all . Supermarkets(Morrisons and Asda) still 2p cheaper for unleaded than Shell. I tend to fill up one in four times at Shell. My brother in law used to work for them and although he disliked the company, he said it was better petrol and should be used one in four . I’ve also heard this from other people knowledgeable on vehicles.
Certainly the one in four fill ups at Shell seemed to serve my 1600 Petrol Focus from 2000 very well as I’ve only just retired it after 207000 miles and only because it was going through wheel bearings too often. I was very sad because the engine was still wonderful and I still got 45 mpg on commute and 52 on motorways. I don’t think the 1800 petrol Zetec I have now is going to be as economical as it is much higher revving ; 3000 revs at 60 whereas the Focus was 3000 at 70 ; the Zetec really feels like it needs a sixth gear.
If you happen to be near a Costco and are a member, the one near me was offering £1.129 to the nearest Sainsbury’s £1.189 and my actual nearest store was £1.229. This was the 17th, and I happened to be shopping at the Costco, so not out of my way.
My local Sainsburys used to be one of the cheapest (second only to Asda), whereas now it’s one of the most expensive in the area, including the local independants who are usually several ppg more now than Asda.
I noticed a few weeks ago that Tesco had hiked their prices quite a bit in certain places. In Scunthorpe, they were the same price as Asda, now they are charging 2p more; although still 4p less than the Jet station not that far away! My local Tesco Express has stayed the same at 1.209 however. Currently, I pay 1.187/1.189 for diesel across S Yorks and N Lincs, almost always to Morrisons or Asda. Given the mileage I do, that’s a fair saving over a month.
In our area a local (Wokin) BP station has had coupons for 3 months in the local paper giving 5p off per litre for fuel purchases over £30. brings it (at present) to about 119.9 a litre compared with Morrison nearby which is (I think) at present 122.9.
The BP station has usually been the most expensive in the area but does seem to be promoting itself more.
I think your conclusion is right. Sainsburys & Morrisons in Woking are now only 2p a litre cheaper than Esso, Texaco & Jet and only (as of yesterday) 3p cheaper that Shell so less difference than there used to be
Hmm in Teignmouth you have little choice what was the only garage got bought my Tesco and when the new Morrison’s opened they had a filling station. –
In my area, the garage a mile along the road from Sainsbury’s has fairy consistently been one-tenth of a penny cheaper per litre. However, once Nectar points are factored in, Sainsbury’s is probably the better deal. However, travel five miles north and you can save 2p a litre at Tesco. If I’m working in that area, I now go to Tesco and use the clubcard instead – but it wouldn’t be worth making a special journey.
It looks like its just Sainsbury’s who have given up.
Near to me,there is a Tesco on one side of the village with unleaded at 117.9, yet Sainsbury’s at the other side of the village is 120.9, the nearest Jet about a mile further away is 118.9 and if you want to go a little further, Asda and Morrisons are the cheapest as usual at 116.7.
So as I said, it not “The supermarkets” its just Sainsbury’s
ASDA Morley yesterday £1.159 unleaded, M6 services Knutsford £1.329!
That generates an extra £3,400 approx per tanker load at M6 services
I quite regularly travel to Aberdeen and Inverness and down to Cornwall and to the South East and one thing I have noticed is that if wherever I go only Asda has a constant price across all its petrol stations. I live just outside Nottingham and I have used the price comparison facility to check what’s going on. Within fairly easy reach of me are 4 or 5 Tesco outlets. When I checked them no two outlets were charging the same price for fuel. What was even worse in my mind was that two of them were within a mile of each other. Why, or are Tesco’s outlets operated on a franchise basis so the manager can charge what he thinks his customers will accept before going elsewhere. That’s the only explanation I can think of since if Tesco controls the outlets you would expect the same consistency in pricing as operated by Asda. It appears that Morrisons have now followed Asda’s lead. I can’t comment on Sainsbury as I don’t shop there for anything. Independent Outlets are mostly franchised so charge what they need to get the profit they want and in some areas they do have to cover additional cost for transporting the fuel to them but some of the variations between outlets close to each other, sometimes across the road, are just ridiculous.
The North/South divide is very noticeable if you travel distances 5p-7p a litre on average lower up North. One petrol supplier with green logo is consistently dearer anywhere you go nationwide by 3-5 p a litre and their Motorway 130 a litre is scandalous Noiticeably here in the south local Sainsbury jumps from 119 a litre to 122/3 a litre at weekends ! and sprat to catch a mackerel on vouchers, you have to be really savvy as to why where when you get the deal having spent £70 on higher priced groceries I may well be moving from Sainsbury to Morrisons in the next town.
I can get Esso at a major station at 119 a litre or less all the time and they adjust their prices daily, and are the first to drop them on a weekly basis as a result their 16 pumps are always full with traffic. Day & Night
The supermarkets are being found out with deal prices out of date and the public have got to start looking at their bills and receipts to see what they have paid rather than just get it pay and go !
It seems to be Sainsburys who have given up the price war.
Example TODAY for Diesel –
Sainsburys – 125.10 litre
Asda – 117.70 litre
Distance between the two – just 3 miles.
Amazingly, Sainsburys stll has cars filling up at the pumps. Too lazy or too much money??
I’m lucky enough to have a Costco near enough to make it local. Paid last night 114.9 a litre for premium diesel. If you have one close enough, the savings on filling up pay the membership cost easily over a year. They guarantee to be the cheapest locally. And then you still have the benefits of membership. Used to use Sainsbury’s as was on the way to work and opened at 6am. But save £’s now at Costco.
Sainsburys Washington, Tyne and Wear have hiked theirs up, so simple, we now get the petrol AND shopping elsewhere. Now buying from a local retailer.
Loyalty goes both ways for us.
Is usually 5p a litre cheaper than all the surmarkets in Thurrock for diesel
Asda is consistently the more competitive on both diesel and petrol.
They have been for a very very long – time and hopefully they will remain so.
I only use Tesco and Sainsbury when I really have to.
As I always fill to the brim and usually with the 2004 Volvo D5 SE Geartronic that is 65 litres of diesel – money sadly does not grow on trees.
My petrol powered car is a 2002 BMW 325Ci Automatic Convertible and that is more often than not – a 56 litre fill.
Unlike many – I don’t smoke nor gamble and I am only a very very moderate consumer of alcohol.
My passion is my cars – yes old – by some standards but fully paid for taxed,insured and maintained.