Gas Station Fandom: The Growing Obsession with America’s Fuel Stops

Loves Gas Station

A recent survey found that 58% of Americans consistently pick their favorite gas station rather than use what’s closest or inexpensive. The reasons behind the fascination with certain fuel stops vary, but there’s no doubt some have a cult-like following.

You might think of a gas station as no more than a place to fill your tank, use the restroom, and grab a (questionable) bite to eat — but, according to a survey of 1,011 participants by Payless Power, it turns out Americans have strong feelings when it comes to gas stations. And who doesn’t love a good 7-Eleven slurpee or that undeniable hotdog deal from Costco’s food court.

Why a Gas Station Isn’t Just a Gas Station

In the early 1900s, when automobiles were a growing trend, filling up meant pulling over to a curbside pump. But as cars became less a craze and more a staple, curbside pumps started to turn into a problem. They were creating traffic jams — and so, drive-in stations emerged as the new norm.

Food and other conveniences quickly followed when business-minded owners realized they could make more revenue if they offered road-trippers refreshments with their fuel. Today, Americans seek out stations that feature what they need most: clean restrooms, good snacks, and, of course, well-priced gasoline.

As Mikkel Woodruff from Sometimes Home Sometimes Sailing puts it, “I go out of my way to go to Wawa or Sheetz, depending where along the east coast I’m driving. The bathrooms at Wawa and Sheetz are always the cleanest and nicest to use on the road. Since I drive long distances often, usually between New York and North Carolina, or North Carolina and Florida, it’s likely I need to use a restroom and get gas at similar intervals. Also, Sheetz and Wawa both have reliable snacks and food options, and well-priced gas. So, it’s truly one-stop shopping and rest on the road.”

Americans Will Go Far for Their Favorite Fuel

Woodruff isn’t alone in her willingness to add travel time in return for gassing up at what she considers to be the best fuel stop. Indeed, the Payless Power survey reveals Buc-ee’s gas station fans are prepared to drive up to 21 minutes out of their way to find their favorite Beaver-themed shop.

Costco members are similarly happy to add mileage to their trip if it means filling up at the iconic warehouse store. As Steve Morrow from Paddle About shares, “The gas station thing is a running joke in our family. I will drive past 100 gas stations to go to the Costco gas station and use my Costco Rewards card.”

In fact, only 26% of survey respondents said they choose their gas station by distance, meaning the vast majority are ready to extend their trip if it means a stop at their preferred station.

Pablo Fechino from The Happiness Function says, “We always stop at a Love’s. We even have the app and earlier this summer we drove from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Apalachicola, Florida, and used the app to get 10 cents off per gallon. Loves has nice facilities and my wife appreciates a clean restroom. We also like how they typically have space to walk the dog. If there isn’t a Love’s we find a Sam’s Club.”

Popular Pumps and What They’re Known For

Both regional and national chains have developed superfan followings. The top five favorite gas stations amongst Americans, per the Payless Power survey, are Costco, Love’s, Shell, 7-Eleven, and Wawa.

But these large and national chains aren’t the only stations travelers are willing to go the extra mile for.

Buc-ee’s stations, for example, draw in crowds with their signature beaver nuggets and chocolate fudge. Texans are so loyal to this toothy beaver’s snacks that Plano entrepreneur Chris Koerner created an entire business out of shipping Buc-ee’s themed merch and nonperishables to Texan natives throughout the country.

Casey’s is another gas station convenience store that has built up a loyal following of fans with a passion for food. Remarkably, the red-roofed pit stop is now so popular that it’s the 5th largest pizza chain in the U.S.

Gas Station Loyalties: Finding Your Fuel-Up Favorite

From their humble beginnings as curbside pumps, gas stations have been fueling Americans and their cars for more than a century. No matter if you’re a loyal Costco Member, Wawa fanatic, or Love’s devotee, these roadside stops are a quintessential part of road trips and American life in general.

Whether going out of their way for up to 21 miles to get their favorite gas or having snacks from that specific company shipped to them across the country, it’s clear Americans take their pitstops seriously.

This article was produced by The Happiness Function and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation and travel writer sharing the best-kept secrets that aren’t in your typical guidebook. Her goal is to inspire people to travel with a sense of adventure by sharing hidden gems across the U.S. and beyond. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo. They camp in their Aliner often and love wandering the world. Follow their latest adventures on Instagram @thehappinessfxn.

1 Comment

  1. William B Randall on June 28, 2023 at 7:28 pm

    When I used to drive, the gas stations were

    like Exxon, Shell, and Mobil, too.

    Things have really changed !!