Difference between regular and premium gas

8 minute read Published on Apr 22, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

Three Modern Gas Pumps with Colorful Trees in Background

If you've ever gassed up your vehicle at a gas station, you’ve probably noticed that you have more than one option when arriving at the pump. Namely, you can choose between filling up your car with regular or premium gas. But what’s the difference between premium gas and regular gas? We answer this question below.

Premium gas vs. regular gas

What distinguishes premium gas from regular gas is the octane level. Premium gasoline, also called ultra or super gas, has an octane level of 91 or higher, though the most common versions contain 91 octane and 93 octane. Meanwhile, regular gasoline typically has an octane level of 87. For gas stations with a third fuel option, which might be called midgrade,this gasoline has an octane level of 89.

Why does octane matter? Gas that has a higher octane rating can withstand higher compression before detonating. Generally speaking, the higher the octane rating, the less likely that the detonation of the gas will happen at the incorrect time. Detonating occurring at the wrong time every so often will not damage your car. However, if it were to start happening regularly, e.g. if you were to constantly fill a luxury car that requires premium gas with regular gas, it could impact your engine’s performance.

Although most modern vehicles are designed to function using regular gasoline, certain makes and models may require high-octane or premium fuel to maximize performance and fuel efficiency. We all know how crucial good fuel economy is, especially if you want to reduce how much you spend at the gas pump.

Does my car need premium fuel?

It depends. If you aren’t sure what type of gas to fill up your car with, consult your owner’s manual. Your owner’s manual includes a wide range of recommendations, from how frequently to change your oil or change your transmission fluid to what kind of gasoline your car needs to perform optimally.

Generally speaking, most cars today are designed to run on regular gas. Certain luxury or high-performance cars may benefit from higher octane fuel. For example, cars with turbocharged engines or higher compression ratios might need premium gas to function properly.

If you make the mistake of filling up your car’s engine with regular gas when it requires premium, you could inadvertently damage the engine, reducing fuel economy, decreasing the horsepower, and even diminishing overall performance.

The main problem here is the damage that could be done to your engine with prolonged use of the wrong type of gas. Similar to how costly it can be to replace a bad transmission, replacing a bad engine can also be incredibly expensive.

If the owner’s manual does not specify a type of gasoline or says that the car will run perfectly fine on regular gasoline, then feel free to choose this fuel type, as it’s nearly always the cheaper option.

When is higher octane fuel necessary?

Premium gas is usually only necessary when your owner’s manual recommends it. Remember that if your automaker recommends premium gas for a specific vehicle model, there is a reason for it. They don’t simply want their customers to spend more money. Instead, the vehicle likely contains certain high-performance elements, like turbochargers or a high-compression engine, that make premium gas the better choice. Ignoring this recommendation and choosing to fill up the gas tank with regular gas could lead to unnecessary damage, and wear and tear that could shorten your car’s lifespan and lead to bigger issues down the road. Given how expensive the types of cars are that require premium gas, the last thing you likely want to do is risk damaging your car or compromising its performance.

That said, if your car manual does not suggest premium gas, then filling up your tank with this higher-octane fuel will not do you any favours. In fact, it is unlikely to impact how your car runs at all, so you’d likely just be paying more for the same performance that regular gas would provide.

Deciding between premium gas and regular gas

When deciding between premium gas and regular gas, a few main factors may be worth considering. For example, you may wish to consider the age of the car, the weight of the car, the type of engine in your car, and the type of car you drive, e.g. a truck, SUV, minivan, or sedan. You may also wish to try filling up your car with both types of gas on different trips to the gas station to see if you notice any difference in the performance or fuel economy. That said, generally speaking, deciding between premium and regular gas should be a relatively simple decision that comes down to one main detail: your auto manufacturer’s recommendation.

If your automaker doesn’t require premium gas, fill up your tank with regular gas

If your automaker does not require premium gas, then you're better off filling up your gas tank with regular gas. After all, why pay more money for something that you don’t need or won’t benefit from?

Premium gasoline costs a considerable amount more per litre, yet it does not impact cars with engines that don’t require it. Studies have been done and time and time again, it has been shown that filling up an average car with regular gas will not improve performance, speed, or mileage. In other words, do not waste your time or money on premium gas unless your automaker specifically requires it.

If your automaker requires premium gas, fill up your tank with premium gas

On the other hand, if your automaker requires that your car be filled up with premium gas, then take care to do so. Generally speaking, manufacturers can require premium gas, recommend premium gas, or neither. This means that if your manufacturer states that premium gas is a requirement rather than a recommendation, you should take it seriously.

This likely means that the engine type in the car or other car parts relies on higher octane fuel to function properly. If you attempt to save money at the gas pump by filling up your vehicle with regular gas, you could make it less powerful and fuel-efficient. Over time, it could also damage your engine, and the last thing you want is to have to replace your engine because you filled it up with the wrong type of fuel. When in a pinch, there is nothing wrong with filling up your tank with regular gas, such as at a gas station with no premium gas option. But you should try filling it with premium gas as much as possible if your owner’s manual requires it.

If your automaker recommends premium gas, it’s up to you to decide

One final option is to decide whether your automaker recommends or requires premium gas. If this is your situation, then it’s ultimately up to you to decide what type makes sense for your needs. If premium gas is suggested, it likely means that your car’s performance and fuel economy might be marginally better, but it’s unlikely to have a significant impact. Given this, running on regular gas will still be perfectly safe and effective for your car. So, it ultimately just comes down to your personal performance and budgetary restrictions.

Tips to prolong the life of your car

Putting the right type of gas in your car is just one way that you can improve its performance and increase its lifespan. There are several other ways to take care of your car so that it functions as it should for as long as possible. Read through this list of expert-approved tips below:

1. Pay attention to the owner’s manual

You can find the owner’s manual for your car in the glove box. When you purchase a new vehicle, you should take care to review this manual carefully. It contains all sorts of valuable information, like the ideal car maintenance schedule. If you follow this, the odds of your car being in good shape are much greater.

2. Don’t forget about oil changes

Taking your car in for regular oil changes is of the utmost importance. This is due to the fact that the oil in your car directly relates to the functioning of the engine. In fact, it’s oil that keeps your engine lubricated and cool. Without regular oil changes, the oil levels can become too low, or the oil itself can become compromised, which can damage the engine. Thankfully, oil changes don’t take long, nor do they cost much money, so they should be easy to fit into your schedule.

3. Drive safely

Driving safely is another way to prolong your car's life. Driving defensively and responsibly will significantly reduce the odds of getting into an auto accident. The fewer auto accidents you are involved with, the less wear and tear there will be on your car, and the longer it is likely to live. In addition, auto accidents can significantly devalue cars, so if you want to sell your car for as much money as possible, avoid accidents at all costs. You can find a list of safe driving tips here.

4. Maintain your car properly

Car maintenance is extremely important if you want to keep your car in good shape. Most automotive experts recommend scheduling a maintenance appointment at least once a year. If you are concerned about the cost of car maintenance, shop around and compare rates from different mechanics or dealerships in your area. Keep in mind that car maintenance appointments usually involve a wide range of services, including fluid top-ups and changes, rotating tires, checking the transmission, and more.

5. Be proactive about repairs

If you want your car to last as long as possible, you must be proactive about repairs. You might think that small repairs don’t have to be dealt with right away, but the reality is that minor issues can quickly and easily turn into big ones. For example, a minor issue can become a serious malfunction or mechanical problem. For this reason, schedule a repair with a qualified and trusted mechanic as soon as you can after identifying a problem with your car.

Get in touch with BrokerLink for more information

When you’re a car owner, there are so many decisions you have to make, like choosing a hybrid vs gas vehicle or deciding between premium and regular fuel. Thankfully, the BrokerLink team is here to help you make these hard decisions and more.

As car insurance experts, we promise to match you with personalized coverage that meets your needs and will protect you in the event of an auto accident. One of our licensed insurance advisors will ensure you have mandatory coverage and will even recommend additional protection, like comprehensive car coverage. Get in touch today for a free auto insurance quote.

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