When you spend a lot of time on the road for work, you come to depend on motorway service stations. Those little oases of refreshment and relaxation can be a literal life-saver on long hauls. At the very least, they're a chance to stretch your legs and fill your tanks, both literal and metaphorical. A well run station can make a bad trip bearable and a good one better. A bad one – well, that's another story.

What makes the best Motorway Services?

Watchdog organisation Transport Focus has been asking questions and taking notes. Their 2018 survey took in over 100 UK stations and close to 10,000 customers.

Questions covered everything from staff friendliness and food prices to the state of the toilets. Once the dust settled, Transport Focus came out with a list of the highest-rated service stations in the UK – with one of them hitting rating an impressive 100% in satisfied customers.

Motorway Services ranked

Topping the charts was Norton Canes, operated by Roadchef. In fact, Roadchef did pretty well for itself overall, taking the top 2 slots and 3 out of the top 10.

Number 2 was Stafford Southbound, which still scored a 99% rating.

Moto took the next 2 positions with their Wetherby and Hilton Park Southbound stations.

Moto actually got 3 out of the top 10 as well, but their victory celebration might have been dampened a little by the terrible performance of Thurrock. Thurrock motorway services were ranked as the UK's worst in this survey, with only 68% of customers satisfied. To be fair, though, the station was going through refurbishment at the time.

Moto also managed to land the second-from-bottom score, with Toddington Southbound scraping only 72% satisfaction. Again, ongoing redevelopment works were probably a factor.

The top 10

1. Norton Canes (M6 toll) – Roadchef – 100% satisfaction

2. Stafford Southbound (M6) – Roadchef – 99% satisfaction

3. Wetherby (A1 (M)) – Moto – 99% satisfaction

4. Hilton Park Southbound (M6) – Moto – 99% satisfaction

5. Corley Southbound (M6) – Welcome Break – 99% satisfaction

6. Tebay Southbound (M6) – Westmorland – 99% satisfaction

7. Pease Pottage (M23) – Moto – 99% satisfaction

8. Woodall Southbound (M1) – Welcome Break – 99% satisfaction

9= Killington Lake (M6) – Roadchef – 99% satisfaction

9= Tebay Northbound (M6) – Westmorland – 99% satisfaction

The bottom 5

1. Thurrock* (M25) – Moto – 68% satisfaction

2. Toddington Southbound* (M1) – 72% satisfaction

3. Southwaite Northbound (M6) – Moto – 80% satisfaction

4. Newport Pagnell South (M1) – Welcome Break – 81% satisfaction

5. Bridgwater (M5) – Moto – 81% satisfaction

*services known to be undergoing refurbishment at the time of the survey Of the 111 service stations, 41 received a satisfaction score of 95 per cent or above.

How good are Britain's Motorway Services overall?

Overall, the state of Britain's motorway services is looking good. 88% of people who drive for their living are happy with the stations they use and he friendliness of staff was rated good by 94% of visitors

However, there's still definite room for improvement. 89% of visitors were satisfied with the cleanliness of the toilets and 66% think they're getting good value for money on their food and drink purchases.

24% of visitors said they arrived at the services in a tired, stressed or frustrated frame of mind. This was reduced to just 5% when leaving to go back on the road

This last point is one of the most important, as Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Motorway services play an important role in providing the break motorists need."

How to claim back what you spend on the road

One thing that can help to take the sting out of your service station visits is keeping track of what you're spending there.

When you travel for work, you can use the money you spend on food on the road to bring down your yearly tax bill. This is something that a lot of people miss out on, and it's costing them some serious cash.

You don't need to be a career driver to claim a tax refund on your food costs, either. When you travel to temporary worksites for your job, food is one of the day-to-day expenses you're probably owed tax back for. The tenner a day you spend on lunch, tea and snacks might not seem that important, but it could be worth close to £500 in refund cash at the end of the year.

If you're paying out for your own fuel for work related travel and your employer's not reimbursing your mileage, then that's when claiming a tax refund becomes really important. Our customers travel 121% further for work than the average UK commuter and the average first tax refund received for travel is £2,500 as we can claim for the past 4 years at once.

Our advice: keep your receipts, you'll need them to prove what you've spent to claim it back - and if you're already a RIFT customer make sure you log them in your MyRIFT Account!

Food expenses are just the start of your yearly tax refund claim. RIFT are the UK's leading experts in keeping the taxman honest. Find out if you're due a tax rebate today.