Do you fill your car with premium gasoline? Chances are you probably don’t, and that’s probably because your vehicle does not need it. However, if you do currently fill your tank with premium gasoline, it might behoove you to know that Americans actually waste about $2.1 billion every year on premium gasoline.
A new study from AAA says that approximately 16.5 million motorists filled up on premium gasoline an estimated 270 million times in 2015. That number may seem innocuous; but here’s the kicker: they did not need to use premium fuel.
“Drivers see the ‘premium’ name at the pump and may assume that the fuel is better for their vehicle,” explains AAA managing director of automotive engineering and repair, John Nielsen. “Premium gasoline is higher octane, not higher quality.”
Indeed, Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center manager, Megan McKernan, notes, “Premium gasoline is specifically formulated to be compatible with specific types of engine designs, and most vehicles cannot take advantage of the higher octane rating. Using premium fuel in a vehicle designed for regular is like throwing dollars out the window while you are driving.”
According to the research from AAA:
upwards of 70 percent of Americans own and drive automobiles that require only regular unleaded gas (not premium); only 16 percent of American vehicles on the road actually need premium gasoline. The other 14 percent require mid-grade fuel and/or have an alternative energy source (like electric power)
Modern engines have control systems that can actually adjust automatically to handle the problems typically associated with lower-octane gas. This is a feature not available, of course, in vehicles made decades ago
Regularly scheduled maintenance can keep gas mileage high and help the engine run more efficiently, even in older cars.
Automotive website Edmunds.com explains it this way: if your vehicle’s owners manual “recommends” premium gas, it is perfectly find to use regular unleaded. However, if your vehicle’s owners manual “requires” premium fuel, then you should definitely use premium fuel (mostly because regular fuel can and will, eventually, damage the engine).
In addition, Edmunds.com also has a list of cars with the “recommended” Premium designation as well as another list of vehicles with the “required” Premium fuel designation. As might be expected, the latter list contains many German luxury vehicles including BMW, Audi, Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz.