In common with many countries, France is seeing a rapid rise in fuel prices as global oil prices soar.
Although France’s large cities have good public transport networks this is far from the case in small towns and rural areas, leaving residents with very little choice but to use their cars.
The average price at the pump is now €1.53 for diesel, or €1.63 for petrol/gasoline, but there are wide variations.
So where are the cheapest places to fill up?
The boss of the Leclerc supermarket chain on Monday announced that all its filling stations will be selling fuel (petrol and diesel) at cost price until the end of October.
Last week Casino did the same, although only at its Casino Géant hypermarché branches and it is expected that other retailers will announce special offers in the days to come.
In reality, however, the retailer margin is between 1 and 2 cents per litre, so this does not represent a big saving.
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Unsurprisingly, the highest prices are at service stations on the autoroutes so heading into a town to fill up instead will save you money.
Make sure you know where you are going though. Many supermarkets place signposts next to highway exits, but once you have turned off the signs often trail out leaving you lost in a strange city.
If you end up driving the entire circumference of the city of Tours while having a blazing row with your partner – to quote a completely random example from no-one we know – it rather nullifies any saving you might make on fuel prices.
Special offers aside, supermarkets usually come out top of most price comparison sites, as the chains sell fuel at very little profit, but use the filling station as a way of luring the customer into the main store to spend money.
The French government hosts this helpful little interactive map that lists the current price of fuel at filling stations across the country.
If you’re in a town it can provide a price comparison, or for long journeys help you plan your route via the cheapest filling points. Click HERE for the full map.
There are also apps that do roughly the same thing, including Carbu.com, Essence&Co and Fuel Flash.
While no governments enjoy presiding over fuel price rises, in France this has a particular political resonance as the ‘yellow vest’ protests that rocked the country back in 2018 and 2019 began as a protest over the cost of motoring.
Keenly aware of this but also reluctant to compromise its green targets by lowering tax on fuel, the French government is instead looking at giving one-time financial aid to motorists struggling with price rises via a chèque carburant (fuel cheque). This would only be open to residents of France.
Full details of the fuel cheque are yet to be revealed, but it is likely to follow the format of chèque energie, the means-tested one-off payment of €100 to those struggling with the increasing bills for household fuel.
The government hopes this will tide people through what is expected to be a short-time rise in prices, linked to the collapse and then revival of global demand for oil during the pandemic.
La station service – filling station
Les carburants – fuel (petrol/gas and diesel)
L’essence – petrol/gas
Gazole – diesel
Sans plomb quatre-vingt-quinze (or SP95) – standard unleaded petrol/gas
Sans plomb quatre-vingt-dix-huit (SP98) – higher octane unleaded petrol/gas