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Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance comparison expert
Posted
20 SEPTEMBER 2023
6 min read
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The UK’s best service stations

For many Brits, motorway service stations are an essential part of any road trip – and not just because they offer a chance to stretch your legs or refill your tank. A lot of us are specific about what we look for in a service station, with half of UK drivers (50%) even admitting to planning their trips around the stations they want to stop at. With that in mind, we wanted to find out which were the best service stations the UK has to offer.

Our research ranked 63 popular motorway service stations across the UK, based on their customer score (which considers overall satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending), the number of restaurants, parking spaces and EV charging points they provide. In addition, we also surveyed British drivers to uncover the country’s most beloved service stations and the restaurant chains they consider ‘essential’ for them to stop.

Reading revealed as the UK’s best motorway service station

Our research revealed Reading Moto as the number one service station in the UK. It ties with Warwick for the highest number of restaurants (23), has the most EV charging points (64), and also offers 590 parking spaces, which drivers can enjoy free of charge for two hours.

Following in second place is Warwick. This motorway service station ties with  Reading for the highest number of restaurants (23), as well as offering the third highest number of EV charging stations (43).

Gloucester comes in third, achieving the highest customer score (86%) and notable five-star ratings for its prices, cleanliness, convenience and accessibility, as well as the range and quality of its shops and food outlets.

Rounding out the top five is Leigh Delamere, which features the second-highest number of restaurants (21), and Cobham with the highest number of parking spaces (980).

Rank Motorway service station Brand Motorway Junction Customer Score Restaurants Number of parking spaces Number of EV charging points
1 Reading Moto M4 11-12 52% 23 590 64
2 Warwick Welcome Break M40 12-13 57% 23 553 43
3 Gloucester Westmorland M5 11A-12 86% 3 690 10
4 Leigh Delamere Moto M4 17-18 57% 21 700 17
5 Cobham Extra M25 9-10 52% 16 980 13
6 Tebay Westmorland M6 38-39 83% 3 280 29
7 South Mimms Welcome Break M25* 23 46% 11 540 39
8 Fleet Welcome Break M3 4A-5 51% 13 730 28
9 Membury Welcome Break M4 14-15 48% 11 583 39
10 Hilton Park Moto M6 10A-11 42% 12 541 56

What makes the perfect service station?

To better understand what leads drivers to stop at certain motorway services, we asked UK licence holders which amenities are most important to them.

It doesn’t take much for journey costs to rack up quickly, so it probably comes as no surprise that free parking is the most appealing amenity for Brits. Fortunately, all official motorway service areas are required by law to offer at least two hours of free parking.

Easy access from the motorway is also key, with over a third (34%) of drivers saying this is an important factor in their visit. This particular quality will also allow them to easily reach their favourite coffee shops and takeout food, with 31% declaring these important.

Rank Service station amenity % of drivers who think this is important
1 Free parking 54%
2 Fuel 42%
3 Easy access from motorway 34%
4 Coffee shop 31%
4 Takeout food 31%
5 Enough indoor seating to eat 18%

Drivers say McDonald’s and Costa are the most important service station restaurants

On top of preferring particular amenities, most UK drivers also consider certain restaurant chains to be a vital part of their service station experience.

Over a third (36%) of drivers voted McDonald’s as the most essential restaurant for a service station. The fast-food chain’s quick and convenient nature makes it a real road trip classic, so it’s easy to understand why it comes top of the list.

Perhaps controversially for coffee fans, Costa Coffee follows closely behind with 32% of drivers rating it essential – which beats the 26% who said they prefer Starbucks.

Greggs ranks as the third most essential chain for a station break, with nearly one in three (30%) drivers eager to fill up on sausage rolls and delicious baked goods.

Rank Restaurant name % of drivers who consider the restaurant ‘essential’
1 McDonald's 36%
2 Costa 32%
3 Greggs 30%
4 Starbucks 26%
5 M&S Simply Food 25%

Tips for safe motorway driving

Motorway stations are commonplace for a number of drivers, from commuters to road trippers. So, if you’re on a long drive, especially along motorways, it’s important to stay alert and safe on the roads and that’s why our team has pulled together some of their top tips on ensuring you stay safe:

  1. Considered driving

    With the increased speed limit and number of lanes, driving along the motorway can be a freeing experience but it’s important to take the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of accidents:
    • Maintain a safe distance - Highway Code Rule 126 suggests leaving a 2-second gap between your car and the car ahead of you. Consider doubling this time when driving through a downpour.
    • Be cautious when overtaking - Highway Code Rule 267 recommends only overtaking if you’re sure it’s safe to do so. Pay special attention when you’re driving in the dark, as the poor visibility will make speed and distance harder to judge.
       
  2. Avoid distractions


    Due to the long distances and the constant speed at which you’re driving, distractions are more likely to occur on motorways. Highway Code Rule 148[1]  advises avoiding the following activities to ensure safe motorway driving:

    • Playing music too loudly

    • Reading maps

    • Adjusting the music or radio

    • Eating, drinking and smoking

  3. Take regular breaks

    Motorway driving can get monotonous, especially when you’ve been on the road for hours, and it’s easy to get drowsy when driving for too long. So, it’s important to take regular breaks to stay focused.

    Highway Code Rule 91 advises against driving on the road for any longer than two hours and taking a break of at least 15 minutes. This should give you more than enough time to use service station facilities and stock up on snacks.
Author image Julie Daniels

What our expert says...

     “When preparing for a long drive, it’s always a good idea to plan your journey ahead of time so you can factor in regular breaks, in order to stay alert and keep yourself and others safe. This will also let you find a service station that best meets your needs, whether you have a favourite restaurant chain or need an EV charging point.


If you’re planning on a long motorway journey with someone else, such as a partner or friend, it’s worth looking into named driver car insurance, so you can spread the load of travelling long distances. Adding them to your car insurance policy as an additional driver means they can safely drive your car and be covered by your insurance.”

- Julie Daniels, Motor insurance comparison expert

Methodology and Sources

We created a seedlist of 68 motorway service stations in the UK and ranked them based on the following metrics:

  • Customer score, based on overall satisfaction and likelihood of recommending (Which?)
  • Number of restaurants (desk research)
  • Number of parking spaces (desk research)
  • Number of EV charging points (Zap Map)

All survey data is taken from a survey of 2,012 UK licence holders, carried out from 31/07/23 to 03/08/23.

Julie Daniels - motor insurance comparison expert

Julie is passionate about delivering a great customer experience and rewarding people for saving on their insurance through our loyalty and rewards programme. She’s spoken to the media, including outlets like Sky News and Capital FM, about car and home insurance, as well as our rewards scheme.

Learn more about Julie