The Difference Between Regular and Premium Gas

Posted by Pekin Insurance on Nov 30, 2016

If you've been filling your tank with high octane on the premise that it's better for your vehicle, think again. The difference between regular and premium gas might surprise you.

It's common for people to think that just because something is more expensive, that means it's a better product. Sometimes that's true. If you buy a more expensive car, the odds are good it has something cheaper cars don't. When you purchase organic or natural food products, which carry a higher price tag, you're eliminating certain unwanted elements from your meals. But when it comes to the difference between regular and premium gas, more expensive doesn't necessarily mean better.

If you're one of those people who tends to go top shelf on everything you buy, make sure that you're not needlessly spending real money on gas your car doesn't need.

The difference between regular and premium gas

When you go to the gas station, you'll see yellow stickers above each gas option denoting the octane rating, which is usually a number between 87 and 93. The higher the octane rating, the more compression the fuel can withstand and the less likely you are to experience "knocking" in the engine. In other words, premium gasoline contributes to higher performance—but only in vehicles built for it.

How do you know what grade of gas you should use in your vehicle? Consult the owner's manual or ask the dealership where you bought it.

Here are some other myths about the difference between regular and premium gas that could be costing you at the pump:

Myth #1: Premium gasoline means better gas mileage

Premium gasoline may have a higher combustion threshold, but that doesn't mean you're saving fuel when you use it. In fact, a car designed for regular fuel will probably get the same gas mileage if you "treat" it to premium. That's because the higher combustion threshold only makes a difference at speeds much higher than legally allowed on roadways or in vehicles used to tow heavy loads. If you're just driving to work, you might save a small fraction of a mile per gallon, but not enough to notice and certainly not enough to pay 10-30 cents more per gallon.

Myth #2: Regular gas in a car designed for premium will hurt the engine

Some premium-gas car owners worry that using regular gas will hurt the engine or invalidate a warranty. In most cases, neither scenario is true. Premium is designed to optimize your car's performance, but that doesn't mean regular gas will damage it. Unless you hear knocking when using regular gas, it's unlikely that doing so will have any negative impact on your vehicle. At the same time, using regular will certainly have a positive impact on your wallet.

All that said, you shouldn't skimp on the premium just for financial reasons if that's what your car takes. But if your options are limited or if you just happen to be out of cash one week or if your buddy borrowed your car and didn't know any better, not to worry. Your premium gas vehicle should do just fine with the regular octane.

Myth #3: If it doesn't say premium, it's not premium

It's a common misconception that just because octanes have rating numbers, the state minimums for regular versus mid-grade versus premium are standard across the board. However, different states have different requirements for what qualifies as premium gas, which means the difference between regular and premium gas may be misleading.

If you live in a state where a rating of 90 is considered premium and then you go to another state where 92 is the minimum rating, that doesn't mean you have to choose the higher octane. If your vehicle has been consuming gas with an octane rating of 90, you can continue using that same fuel rating regardless of whether or not the state you're in calls it premium.

If you're looking for ways to save money, nationwide ratings are something you might want to take a look at. The most common minimum rating for premium is 91, so even if you live in a state where the minimum rating is 92 or 93, you can probably use 91 and still consider it premium gas for your everyday driving purposes.

Myth #4: Premium gas will optimize my regular gas vehicle's performance

Probably the most important thing to understand is that if your vehicle doesn't have a high compression engine, using high octane gas won't make any noticeable difference. Think about it: a fuel designed to withstand higher compression utilized in a vehicle incapable of higher compression isn't going to offer any benefit. It would be like putting espresso grounds in a regular drip coffee machine. The result will just be coffee that tastes like espresso, in which case, you're probably better off with regular coffee to begin with.

Don't judge a book by its cover

Despite the connotation associated with the word "premium," a higher octane rating doesn't necessarily—and in fact, usually doesn't—mean better performance. Know your vehicle and use what's best based on the owner's manual, not based on labels placed on octane ratings.

Your car may take regular gas, but that doesn't mean you should carry anything less than a premium policy. Get in touch today to see how you can benefit from coverage through Pekin Insurance.

Has experience taught you anything about the difference between regular and premium gas? Share your tips and stories in the comments below.


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