Coles Express is the most expensive petrol retailer in each of the major capital cities, while filling up at 7-Eleven, Woolworths, United and smaller outlets should save you money, a new report says.
A major study by the consumer watchdog analysed the cost of fuel at retailers in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth throughout 2017.
Released on Sunday, the report found Coles Express was slugging motorists 2.9 cents per litre more across those five capital cities compared to the market average.
In Sydney, motorists paid 4 cents per litre more to fill up at the Wesfarmers-owned retailer, while in Melbourne it was 2.4 cents per litre more expensive. (A list of the best and worst places to fill up can be found at the bottom of this story.)
Caltex and BP-branded outlets where head office set prices (14.4 per cent and 6.8% of all outlets across the five cities) were also found to be charging above market rates.
The largest retailer in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane — 7-Eleven — was priced below average in the NSW capital and the second-best performer in Melbourne and Brisbane.
Motorists could also make savings by filling up at small independent retailers, a diverse category that included independently owned BP, Caltex petrol stations and other less-known retailers.
Prices at Woolworths, which operates about 9% of all outlets in the five cities, were generally below the market average, while United was the cheapest option for motorists in Melbourne and Brisbane.
“The majority of consumers tend to go to the same petrol station every time they fill up,” said Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims.
“This research shows it might be time to consider which station to fill up at.”
The ACCC report did not take into account shopper docket discount schemes offered by the major supermarket chains.
Coles defended its prices on Sunday, saying customers could save up to 14 cents per litre on fuel by using those discount vouchers.
“Coles Express always seeks to provide a competitive fuel offering to our customers, and our convenience stores lead the market in value on a range of food, drinks and everyday household needs at supermarket prices,” a spokesperson said.
Pays to shop around: ACCC
Treasurer Scott Morrison ordered the watchdog to analyse petrol prices in December, with Sunday’s report to be replicated every three months.
The consumer watchdog was given extra powers to compulsorily acquire pricing information from retailers.
The report also found that the gap between the cheapest and most expensive outlets had grown significantly over the past 10 years.
For example, consumers in Sydney now pay 9.5 cents per litre more at Coles Express than they do at Speedway. In 2007, the price difference across retailers was 2.3 cents per litre.
Monthly data showed prices at Coles Express spiked towards the end of 2017, which brought up its yearly average.
Sims said consumers could put pressure on retailers by making the extra effort to fill up where prices were cheapest.
The majority of road users went to the same petrol station every time they filled up, he said.
“Shopping around has the added benefit of increasing competition by putting pressure on retailers who charge the most to lower their prices or risk losing customers,” Sims said.
Where to fill up around the country
Most expensive: Coles Express, BP*, Caltex*
Cheapest: Speedway, Metro, Budget
Most expensive: Coles Express, BP, BP Jasbe
Cheapest: United, 7-Eleven, Woolworths
Most expensive: Coles Express, BP, Freedom Fuels
Cheapest: United, 7-Eleven, Puma Energy
Most expensive: Coles Express, On the Run
Cheapest: Liberty, small independents
Most expensive: Coles Express, BP, Caltex
Cheapest: Vibe, United, 7-Eleven
*Caltex and BP stations where prices are set by the company, not the independent owner.