Most expensive service stations named as drivers charged 117% more for same snacks

A new investigation has laid bare the scale of the motorway service station rip-off – as well as the places it’s worst.

Admiral Car Insurance visited stations up and down the country – comparing prices on staples like sausage rolls, wine gums, chocolate and crisps – to find out exactly what they were charging, then compared it to the same items in a normal supermarket.

They found water was the most overpriced purchase – with stations charging an extra £1.85 for a 500ml bottle compared with 44p in a supermarket.

Admiral’s Clare Egan said: “We all expect to pay a little more for convenience, but the amount people are charged at service stations amounts to highway robbery in some cases.”

Beaconsfield Services on the M40 was the 6th most expensive found
Beaconsfield Services on the M40 was the 6th most expensive found

The average price hike worked out at 117%, with some service stations charging as much as 135% more than buying the same items at a supermarket.

Worst of all was Durham services – where a basket of sweets and savoury snacks plus drinks wold set you back £16.21, compared to £6.89 in a supermarkt.

Lancaster and Woolley Edge services were the joint next most expennsive – charging £16.17 for the same items – followed by Hilton Park and Leigh Delamere services at £16.16.

Leigh Delamere Services on the M4 was ranked in the top 5 for costs
Leigh Delamere Services on the M4 was ranked in the top 5 for costs

By contrast, Heart of Scotland services was the cheapest –  where motorists would pay £9.31 for the same basket of items motorway fare.

Egan said: “Grabbing the essentials from home or at least a supermarket before setting off could result in some big savings on the overall cost of your journey.

“Given the availability of free water refills at all of the service stations and the push to be plastic-free, motorists don’t need to spend anything on bottled water, let alone a forking out as much as 420% more than in a supermarket.”

Reading West Motorway Services (M4)

The 10 most expensive service stations Admiral found:

  • Durham Services A1(M) – 135% markup
  • Lancaster (Forton) Services M6 – 135% markup
  • Woolley Edge Services M1 – 135% markup
  • Hilton Park Services M6 – 135% markup
  • Leigh Delamere Services M4 – 135% markup
  • Beaconsfield M40 – 133% markup
  • Bothwell Services M74 – 132% markup
  • Magor Services M4 – 130% markup
  • Birchanger Green Services M11 – 129% markup
  • Reading Services M4 – 128% markup

“Many of us will be making cross-country trips with our families over the coming weeks, and it will be tempting to stop en route for a snack or petrol,” Egan said.

“By planning ahead, you could avoid the hyper inflated service station costs save some money for Christmas and help the environment at the same time.”

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Here are Admiral’s tips to save money on a long car journey:

  • Plan ahead and buy food in from the supermarket before you set off, or even better take a packed lunch and refillable water bottle from home
  • Use an app such as   identify places to refill water for free
  • Fill up on fuel before you get onto the motorway to ensure you aren’t paying inflated prices
  • Bring some activities and snacks for the children so you are prepared should they want to stop off to avoid expensive treats
  • Consider pulling off the motorway to a nearby supermarket if you need to re-stock: prices are considerably lower
  • Don’t forget to make sure you carry out all the appropriate vehicle checks before you start a long journey – checking tyre pressure and water levels will mean you travel safely and don’t have the unexpected cost of a broken-down car


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