Where Are Consumers' Favorite Fill-Ups?

Annual survey ranks top fueling choices among c-stores, big boxes

LOUISVILLE, Colo. -- Market Force Information is out with its survey on consumers’ favorite places to fill up their gas tanks. The research firm polled more than 10,000 consumers for the annual report, which ranks gas stations in two categories: traditional gas stations and convenience stores, and grocery stores and big-box retailers with gas stations.

Kwik Trip and BJ’s Wholesale Club, respectively, took the top spots in the two categories.


Favorite Gas Station/C-Store Brands

  1. Kwik Trip
  2. QuikTrip/Wawa (tied)
  3. Sheetz
  4. RaceTrac
  5. Speedway

Favorite Grocer/Big-Box Gas Brands

  1. BJ's Wholesale Club
  2. Costco
  3. Kroger
  4. Sam's Club

Market Force found that even though most motorists still fuel up at traditional gas stations, grocers and big-box brands continue to be popular choices for their low prices and convenience.

For recent trips to the pump, 71% visited a gas station, while 28% chose a grocer or big-box retailer.

For the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent fueling experience and their likelihood to refer that brand to others. It averaged these results to attain a score on the Composite Loyalty Index.

While it didn't earn enough votes in 2015 to make the list, Kwik Trip overtook Wawa this year to rank No. 1. QuikTrip and Wawa tied for second with 68%, and Sheetz, RaceTrac and Speedway made up the rest of the top five. The top five brands are all regional and corporate-owned. Phillips 66 is the highest-ranking national brand for the second consecutive year, earning a 51%.

Kwik Trip (known as Kwik Star in Iowa) operates more than 400 locations in the Midwest and is undergoing rapid growth. It aims to be a fill-in grocery option, offering fresh meat and even making its own baked goods, dairy products and snack foods. 

Market Force also evaluated how well fuel brands deliver on a spectrum of attributes. QuikTrip led in three of the categories, including ease of entering and exiting the property, cashier service and having cleaning supplies at the fueling station. Kwik Trip took the top spot for appearance and merchandise selection. Chevron ranked highest for fuel quality and Murphy was voted the fuel-price leader. Wawa also performed consistently well.

“The brands are tightly clustered in nearly every category, which shows just how fiercely competitive this industry is,” said Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer for Market Force Information. “With drivers having so many options to choose from, gas stations and convenience stores must excel in areas beyond price, such as offering multiple payment options or specialty foods to attract loyal, repeat customers.”

Market Force found that 23% of customers bought a fresh food item during their last visit and 89% were satisfied with the quality. Wawa, Kwik Trip, Casey’s, Sheetz and QuikTrip led in fresh-food purchases and all had relatively high marks for food quality satisfaction.

In the grocery and big-box category, BJ’s Wholesale Club took the No. 1 spot in this year’s study, an honor that went to Costco in 2015. Fellow wholesale club Costco ranked second, Kroger ranked third and Sam’s Club dropped a spot to fourth. Competition is tight between the top two, with only a 2-percentage-point difference on the Composite Loyalty Index.

When Market Force looked at the attributes that drive customer satisfaction, Costco led in three of the five categories, including fuel price, fuel quality and appearance; however, it lagged behind for ease of entering and exiting and availability of cleaning tools at the fueling area.

Louisville, Colo.-based Market Force conducted the survey online in March 2016. The pool of 10,535 respondents represented a cross-section of the four U.S. census regions and reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with 53% reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to older than 65. Approximately 73% were women and 27% were men.

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