Of course, everyone wants to save money at the pump, but sometimes spending a little extra can make a major difference in a vehicle’s overall performance. Take motor oil, for example. Unless you drive an older model or use a car irregularly, most experts agree that paying more for synthetic lubricant will extend the life of your vehicle and improve engine quality. When it comes to gasoline, however, does buying premium really make a difference? In most cases, no, buying premium gas won’t do enough good to justify the inflated cost. There are exceptions, however. Before you fill up, consider the following:
Turbocharged Engines or Vehicles Used for Towing Should Use Premium Gasoline
The more work your engine does (or the fancier it performs), the more benefits it will glean from high octane gasoline. In fact, if you use regular gas in these vehicles, it will likely cause engine knocking, a sign you need to switch to premium.
Most Vehicles Get No Added Benefits from Premium Gasoline
Unlike high-quality engine oil, premium gasoline doesn’t make a car accelerate faster, run cleaner, or become more efficient. But premium gasoline does cost significantly more than regular gasoline. In some cases, a manufacturer recommends using high octane gas, and these engines will operate at full capacity when such advice is followed. For example, you won’t get the maximum horsepower if you choose regular gasoline, though most drivers won’t notice the difference.
Most Engines Won’t Suffer from Using Regular Gasoline
Even if a manufacturer recommends using premium gas, most vehicles won’t see damage because of regular fuel. In some cases, you might hear engine knocking with lower grade gasoline, but today’s cars have knock sensors and software that adjust their settings for various fuels. If you lease a vehicle, however, your agreement might require the use of premium gasoline, so make sure you check the small print.
Octane Ratings Can Vary
Depending where you live, gasoline designations can vary. While some states require a rating of 92 to be labeled premium, others set the standard at 90. The yellow stickers on the gasoline pump will indicate the octane rating.
Some automakers uphold the benefits of high octane gasoline, including GM, BMW, Honda, Toyota, Audi and Volkswagen. To choose the best option for your model, pay attention to how the car performs with different types of gasoline. If you notice changes in fuel economy, engine quality and overall performance, adjust accordingly.