Car Buying

Buying Premium Gasoline When Regular Will Do Wastes $2.1 Billion Annually

RELATED READING
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon

author photo by Russ Heaps October 2016

Will using premium gasoline make your car perform better and more efficiently than the regular-grade fuel recommended by the automaker? Does the extra 25-or-so cents per gallon for premium translate into something more than just a higher fuel bill?

These questions have confounded drivers for decades. But according to the nonprofit motoring association AAA, the answer isn't just a no -- it's a big, emphatic no. In fact, U.S. motorists squandered about $2.1 billion last year alone by overpaying for higher-octane gas they didn't need.

AAA's study uncovered that using premium gasoline (91- to 93-octane) when your owner's manual calls for regular (87-octane) provides absolutely no benefit whatsoever -- none, period. Although different fuels can produce different results in cars requiring regular-grade fuel, the differences are a product of gasoline quality, not octane. Higher octane, in and of itself, doesn't mean higher quality.

Who actually pays for extra octane their car doesn't need? More than 16 million of us, according to AAA.

A Caveat

With cars for which the manufacturer recommends premium-grade fuel, however, the reverse is usually true. If the carmaker recommends using premium fuel for the vehicle, performance and fuel-efficiency will typically decrease a bit if you use regular or midgrade fuel instead, and using a lower-octane fuel can actually harm the engine over time.

AAA's Study

AAA used industry-standard tests to evaluate vehicle performance, fuel economy and emissions. Basically, these are the tests that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses to produce the miles-per-gallon ratings you find on new cars' window stickers.

Using vehicles powered by inline 4-cylinder, V6 and V8 engines, AAA tested each on a chassis dynamometer with EPA Tier 3 certification fuel containing 10 percent ethanol. AAA tested each vehicle with both premium- and regular-grade gasoline, according to EPA test specifications.

In conjunction with the fuel testing, AAA also surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. drivers age 18 or older about their vehicles and fuel-buying habits.

AAA's Findings

  • Seventy percent of drivers own a vehicle requiring regular gasoline, while about 16 percent own a vehicle requiring premium gasoline. Of the remaining 14 percent, 10 percent own vehicles requiring midgrade fuel, and 4 percent use an alternative energy source, such as electricity.
  • Some 16.5 million U.S. drivers used premium fuel in vehicles engineered to operate on regular gasoline, on a total of more than 272 million occasions.
  • Using premium fuel when regular is recommended produced absolutely no differences in performance, fuel economy or tailpipe emissions.
  • Using a formula that included the study's driver-survey results, Federal Highway Administration data, per-gallon costs of regular and premium fuel and the average number of fill-ups annually, AAA determined that U.S. drivers wasted $2.1 billion on premium-grade gasoline they didn't need.

What it means to you: Don't spend money you don't need to -- follow the fuel recommendations in your vehicle's owners manual. If it's better-quality gasoline you're looking for, seek out gas stations pumping TOP TIER-rated gasoline.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying Premium Gasoline When Regular Will Do Wastes $2.1 Billion Annually - Autotrader