Driving a little further afield to refuel at a slightly cheaper petrol station is something most motorists have considered, but it’s not always worthwhile, new research has suggested.
A study by comparison website Gocompare.com found up to 3.5 million motorists are happy to drive up to 10 miles and a further 2.5 million will drive 20 miles or more in a bid to save 5p per litre, yet the the money you save from buying at a cheaper station is less than the cost of driving all that way in the first place.
Gocompare.com estimated that if a motorist fills up with 27.27 litres of fuel costing £38.81 (based on the July 2013 AA fuel price prediction of 140 pence per litre) then refuelling at a petrol station that is cheaper by 5 pence per litre would save them roughly £1.40 on petrol or £1.34 on diesel.
With that in mind, a 1.6-litre Ford Focus, which does 37.7mpg, would consume more than you would save after travelling just 9 miles. Factor in congestion, exuberant driving and the fact few cars get anywhere near their claimed economy and it soon becomes obvious going out of your way to save a few pennies is a false economy.
“With fuel prices heading up again it’s not surprising that motorists will go out of their way to find cheaper petrol and diesel,” Gocompare head of motor services Scott Kelly explained. “However, what this research shows is that millions of motorists could be spending more on fuel in the hunt for the most competitive petrol stations, than they stand to save on their fuel when they get there.
“For drivers getting less than an average of around 45mpg from their car, an extra 10 mile round trip to get cheaper fuel could result in you paying more for an average top-up. And the 2.5 million drivers who would travel 20 miles or more out of their way for a 5p per litre saving would almost certainly lose money,” he added.
Gocompare believes the sheer number of drivers wasting their time driving further to save money stems from confusion between gallons and litres. It found a mere 13 per cent of drivers were aware of their car’s miles per litre consumption, compared with 40 per cent for miles per gallon.
Such is the confusion between the two units of measurement, 20 per cent of drivers would like petrol stations to display prices in gallons and litres. In case you are terrible at math, you can use websites like fuel-economy.co.uk to do the work for you. Be warmed, though ─ it can make for depressing reading, especially if you start to factor in insurance, tax, MOT and other associated costs.
So what can you do to be as efficient as possible? Well, if you do drive out of your way, fill your car up. Otherwise, stick to local petrol stations that are reasonably priced.
Check out our handy feature for more tips on saving fuel.