Sainsbury’s has become the UK’s preferred petrol retailer with 52% of those surveyed choosing it for its exceptional service and experience, according to an independent study by consumer intelligence firm, Market Force Information.

A survey of 5,900 consumers in June 2015 asked participants to evaluate petrol-retailers on the experience delivered, including price, service, brand image, and value added services such as food and coffee shops.

For the rankings, Market Force Information asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent petrol retailer and their likelihood to refer that petrol retailer to others. The results were averaged to rank each brand on a Composite Loyalty Index.

Overall, consumers rated supermarkets as providing a better experience than traditional petrol brands, with loyalty cards being a primary driver for that preference. Tesco’s loyalty programme provides the most pull, followed closely by Sainsbury’s (58% and 57% respectively). Sainsbury’s took either first or second place in five of the nine attributes measured, and the traditional petrol brand Shell took the lead in fuel quality and brand reputation followed closely by BP.

BP (including its partnership sites with M&S Simply Food) also led the way for fresh food and good coffee. Asda received the best ratings for price with Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons coming in as distant seconds.

Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer for Market Force Information, said: “We found that one in six consumers were dissatisfied with their most recent fueling experience. With the plethora of options available to motorists, it’s difficult for brands to differentiate. To be competitive, brands must deliver on core customer expectations like a competitive fuel price, good fuel quality and ease of getting in and out of the location. In addition, they have opportunities to differentiate on service, site maintenance and overall image. Attention to these will lure customers over and over again.”

The survey also found that fuel-related mobile apps are gaining in popularity among motorists, particularly those on the hunt for low-priced fuel. Five per cent of participants said they have used a fuel-related app. When asked which features they have used within the app, finding a location and comparing fuel prices came out on top.