Premium vs. Regular Fuel, What Fuel Type Should You Be Using?

Buying Tips & Tricks May 27, 2021

Does Higher Octane Mean Higher Performance?

For the longest time there have been two teams, Team Regular and Team Premium, but is there a need to be one or the other? Is there a distinct advantage to one, or lack of one in the other? Well, regardless of which team you may be on, or leaning towards, the answer is; maybe. The truth is, you need to look at the vehicle you’re driving in order to answer that question definitely. 

Is Octane Worth The Price?

From a quick glance at the pumps, there’s one main difference between regular and premium fuel; the octane number. It’s obvious to see that 87 on the regular is lower than the 91 on the premium, but does that mean premium is necessarily better? Not really. 

The truth is, higher octane is fuel that can stand up to higher compression levels before combustion. Premium fuel is less likely to combust prematurely, but this happening on occasion really isn’t going to cause any excess damage to your vehicle, unless the premature combustion is happening frequently. 

In an average family vehicle, it’s very unlikely to happen often as the compression ratios are rather low. You’re not going to be pushing your vehicle any harder running regular or premium. The difference comes in with higher-performance vehicles and turbocharged engines. Higher performance engines can be found in all kinds of cars, from a BMW M4 to even fewer premium brands of higher-end vehicles, such as Subaru’s WRX STI. 

Trust Your Car

You have probably heard a lot of arguments from both sides about which one to use, but the only expert you can really trust on this matter is your vehicle itself. If you need to find out which to use, simply check the inside of your gas cap. It’ll specify the needed octane for your vehicle. Premium can run you anywhere from twenty to fifty cents more per litre, depending on the market and prices, when you’re talking numbers like that it’s best to make sure it’s going to help the vehicle before using it. 

If you have a vehicle that specifies regular, obviously you can put premium in and think it’ll help, but it really won’t be giving you too much of a benefit. In a consumer notice, the Federal Trade Commission, notes: “In most cases, using a higher-octane gasoline than your owner’s manual recommends offers absolutely no benefit. It won’t make your car perform better, go faster, get better mileage or run cleaner.” With this being the case, the extra money isn’t going to give you much benefits. 

However, if you have a vehicle that specifies premium, such as the before mentioned Subaru WRX STI, or one of the many other high-end vehicles that specifically require it, don’t skimp out. While using premium doesn’t offer a benefit to engines specifically built to run on regular, ones built to run on premium will see a lot of downsides when using regular. Not only is it going to be less powerful and less fuel-efficient, older vehicles are even susceptible to engine knocks and many other forms of damage when using fuel without the needed octane for the high performance and turbo-charged engines. Saving the money in the short term isn’t worth the long term results. 

The last thing to consider is some vehicles say “Premium Recommended” which puts the decision in your hands. Unlike before, the choice here will actually be up to you and not result in a lack of benefits or possibility of damage. Many vehicles, such as the Mazda MX-5, say they only require regular but they recommend premium. These vehicles can run safely on regular but when given premium, it actually will improve your fuel efficiency and performance. The benefits are there for you if you want to use them. 

At the end of the day, it’s best to just listen to what the vehicle wants. If it calls for premium, give it premium but if it only calls for regular, save yourself a few bucks and put regular in the tank. 

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