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Supermarket fuel prices may not be the best, Northern Ireland motorists warned

By Claire McNeilly

Motorists in Northern Ireland have been warned to no longer rely on supermarket filling stations for the best deals on fuel.

Driver confidence in retail giants as bastions of the cheapest pump prices has been rocked over the past month as the cost of replenishing a tank edges further up.

The gap between what our 'big three' - Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury - and non-supermarket rivals charge on average for petrol has fallen to below 3p a litre for the first time in 12 months.

And new figures published by the AA show that a family with two petrol cars is now spending £240.22 on unleaded each month, compared to £203.90 in February 2016.

The motoring watchdog's president Edmund King said shopping around could save motorists as much as a fiver a tank.

"Average petrol prices have hit a plateau of around 120p a litre for more than a fortnight, the perfect setting for local price variety and shopping around," he said.

"Savings can be as much as £4 to £5 a tank on some routes and drivers using fuel price apps, such as the AA App, will be discovering the value of searching for better deals."

Mr King conceded nothing can be done to force forecourts to bring prices down and he urged consumers to remain vigilant.

"We accept that it is the prerogative of any retailer to charge what they like for fuel and, in the past, we have seen supermarkets switch to fighting their price wars in the aisles rather than on the forecourts," he said.

"This latest change of tactic, however, comes after nearly 15 months of tight fuel-price competition among supermarkets.

"Drivers need to keep their ears and eyes open to locate lower pump prices.

"That may be a case of buying fuel in a neighbouring town with more competitive prices."

The average cost of unleaded and diesel in Northern Ireland - currently sitting at 119.5ppl and 121.2ppl respectively - is less than the UK averages of 120.11ppl and 122.32ppl.

AA figures suggest that, compared to a year ago, petrol drivers are paying 18.16p a litre more (101.95p) and diesel drivers are 21.30p a litre (101.02p) worse off.

In terms of impact, it means that filling a typical petrol tank costs £9.99 more, while a Transit-size fuel tank is £17.04 more expensive to refuel.

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