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Coles Express is Australia's most expensive petrol retailer across five capital cities, according to an ACCC analysis of 2018 prices that found it is worth shopping around and seeking out independents for a better deal.
The petrol prices report released on Thursday looked at monthly and annual average retail petrol prices in 2018 to identify the highest and lowest priced (on average) major retailers of petrol in each of the capital cities in Australia.
Coles Express was the highest priced major retailer in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
In the same five cities, independent retailers were the cheapest: Speedway in Sydney, United in Melbourne and Brisbane, Liberty in Adelaide and Vibe in Perth.
Of the remaining retailers, Woolworths and 7-Eleven were found to be generally below the market average price in most cities, while BP and Caltex company-owned, company-operated (COCO) retailers were generally above the market average price.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said savings add up over the course of a year, and motorists who always chose cheaper independent retailers would "come out ahead".
In 2018, a motorist in Sydney could have saved about $343 for the year by choosing to fill up at Speedway rather than the Coles Express.
By ditching the highest cost retailer for a cheaper independent, savings of about $148 could be made in Melbourne, about $229 in Brisbane, about $211 in Perth and about $159 in Adelaide.
The range in prices also differed between cities, with Sydney having the biggest discrepancy in prices (13¢ a litre) while Melbourne's prices had the least difference (5.7¢ a litre).
Mr Sims said the significant difference in the price ranges found in Sydney were due to greater competition from independent retailers, which make up about 40 per cent of the market.
"You’ve just got more of these independent chains, and that makes a huge difference. Melbourne doesn’t have those, Sydney does … They discipline the market," he said.
The report did not take fuel discounts into account, he said, because only "a minority of the population can take advantage of them" and they come with their own costs – such as shopping at Coles instead of Aldi.
Either way, a 4¢ discount at Coles still works out at up to 9¢ more expensive on average than the cheapest independent in Sydney.
For those using shopper dockets to reduce their fuel prices, Mr Sims said "there's a big difference between Coles and Woolworths" and consumers are better off choosing the latter.
"You need to weigh up what you need to do to get a discount. If you’re going out of your way to go to Coles to get a discount, you’re better off [choosing an independent]," he said.
Fuel price apps and websites are also useful for motorists who want to save money on fuel, he said.
"Consumers do not only benefit from the lower prices they find using these apps, but they also help reward retailers who actively compete on price.
"Really what we’re trying to do is inform people’s decisions ... our role is just to help consumers save a bit of money, and consumers can do that by buying off the cheaper brands because petrol is petrol."