The Real Difference Between Different Gas Types

There is a decision to make each time you pull up to the gas pumps, regular? Premium? How do you know if something actually is required or is just a way to get more money out of you? Below we explain the differences between the different types of fuel and when it is appropriate to use each.

Unleaded vs. Premium

Common sense would lead one to believe that premium gas is better quality and a better option in every instance. However, this is not always true. The difference between premium and unleaded fuel are the octane levels in each. Octane affects your engine’s chances of igniting improperly. The higher the octane, the less chance there is of an improper combustion of the fuel in your engine, which can hurt engine performance. Unleaded fuel is typically 87% octane, while premium can range from 89-91% octane. The slight change can make a big difference in some engines, depending on the use of the car. So it sounds like premium must always be the right choice if you want to take better care of your car, right?

Is Premium Always Better?

Premium fuel is not always the right choice for your car. It is hard to justify the difference in price in most cases. Premium fuel with higher octane levels really only make a difference in higher performance engines that will be doing more aggressive driving. There are not really any benefits of premium gas if you are commuting or just doing some city driving. It is intended for luxury or sports cars with high powered engines that are going to be strained much more. It can also make sense to use premium in some bigger SUVs and trucks, but is not necessary. There are no proven fuel efficiency benefits to using premium fuel, and even if there were the savings would be lost by the increase in price you paid originally. So you should think long and hard before making the jump to using premium fuel, because it may not benefit you all that much.

So Why Have Premium?

So if premium doesn’t really help your engine, why is it even made? The obvious answer would be so gas companies can make more money off of fuel, which is certainly true. However premium fuel used to serve a much more important purpose. When engines were not as technologically advanced improper combustion was much more of an issue. Starting in 1996, nearly all cars produced had a sensor that would adjust fuel use when an engine malfunctions slightly. Before this could be a much larger issue and cause a catastrophic problem for the engine, but technology has thwarted most of this. Premium is still used in some engines and will always be required, but the need for it has really dipped off as technology has advanced.

Choosing the type of fuel you use can really affect your wallet considering it is a cost you will be occurring pretty much every week. You must carefully consider all the benefits, or lack thereof, of using premium fuel in your situation. In the end, it is not beneficial to use more expensive fuel options in most situations.

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