What's your favorite gas station? A new survey suggests it's more than a place to buy fuel

Photo (c) Wendell and Carolyn - Getty Images

Which is more important to you – price or service?

In the typical consumer’s world, most don’t think twice about gas stations and convenience stores that sell fuel being one of their cornerstones. But the number of places where Americans gas up is quadruple the number of supermarkets and more than triple the number of drug stores. 

Gas stations are completely different businesses than they were 50 years ago, when customers expected an attendant to check the oil and clean the windshield. Today, these businesses have become so integrated into a consumer’s life that they have proven to be more than just a gas station, but a one-stop, grab-and-go staple.

And Americans have their faves when it comes to these stops, too, as PaylessPower recently found it. In a survey of 1,011 Americans' opinions of 25 different brands, researchers found what’s driving this phenomenon and how faithful consumers are to their favorite fuel stops. 

The “premium grade” vs. the oil slicks

Coming in as the favorite choice to gas up was Costco. Sure, it may require a membership, but paying that doesn’t seem to make a difference.

“With locations in almost every state, Costco offers familiarity and consistency, not to mention the convenience of getting your groceries, furniture, and gas all in one place,” the researchers said. 

In the second through fifth places are Buc-ee’s, Sam’s Club, Wawa and Sheetz. The overall worst rated were Valero, Sunoco, Texaco, Phillips 66, and Citco – mostly stops where the winners outshine those locations when it comes to all the bells and whistles a convenience store concept can pile on.

Costco also won the price segment as the “cheapest” putting Shell to shame as the “most expensive.” 

The survey found that while price is important, it’s not everything. Only 16% of respondents chose their gas station based on the price and said that they are willing to spend money if they’re happy with the experience. Case in point, Wawa, which pulls the most money out of a consumer’s pocket per visit at $84.66.

“Steadfast station supporters will drive significantly out of their way to patronize their preferred station and happily part with a considerable amount of money once there,” the analysts wrote.

As far as loyalty goes for gas station customers who frequent their favorite station at least twice weekly to fill their tank or pop in for a snack, the analysts found Gulf fans to be the most loyal, visiting three times per week on average. Gulf customers were also the most consistent, with 73% of them always choosing Gulf over others.

Cleanliness and customer service are king

When it comes to having the “cleanest” perception in a consumer’s mind, Costco takes the top spot there, too, followed by Sam’s Club. But if you want to take those two out of the mix because they’re membership-driven, then it’s Buc-ee’s, Wawa, and Sheetz. 

As far as customer service goes, the survey respondents considered Buc-ee’s to be the “nicest.” Costco, Wawa, and Sam’s also did well in that segment, but it was also a category where one of the smaller competitors – Casey’s – shone with 82% of those surveyed saying it was the nicest. 

The analysts said that in the final analysis, Valero was voted in as the “meanest.”

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