Understanding which gasoline is best for your engine
At the pump, you’re given a few gasoline choices, each with its own specific price tag. But which one is actually best for your engine? Is premium gas really “premium,” or is it just a way to inflate the price?
You can find varying opinions on this matter, and there are plenty of people in both camps: those who think premium is a waste of money and those who believe it’s worth the extra cost for better performance.
We’re out to set the record straight. Here’s how to decide whether you should be buying unleaded or premium gasoline.
Unleaded or Premium – What’s the Difference?
The difference between unleaded and premium gasoline lies in the octane content. Each type of gasoline contains a different concentration of isooctane, which is responsible for ensuring that gas ignites inside the engine at the proper time.
Premium gasoline contains a higher octane level than unleaded gasoline, which makes it better at preventing the engine “knocks” and “pings” associated with gasoline improperly igniting. With this in mind, which is the more responsible purchase?
The Case for Unleaded
While unleaded gas has a lower octane level than premium gasoline, the majority of car models are designed to handle this lower level. There’s nothing wrong with the standard gasoline option, even though the label tends to paint a picture of lower quality in many people’s minds.
Even though unleaded is often recommended, many people believe that filling up with premium better helps protect the car’s engine and will even improve the car’s performance. This isn’t the case. If your car’s manufacturer recommends unleaded, there isn’t anything substantial to gain from buying a more expensive gasoline.
There is a greater risk of knocking and pinging; however, most modern cars (1996 and newer) are made to handle the lower octane levels in unleaded gasoline with engines designed to better control premature ignition.
The Case for Premium
There are certain instances in which premium gasoline may be needed. Some high performance vehicles recommend or even require premium gasoline. According to Edmund’s, if your car is in the recommended category, it’s up to you whether to use premium or unleaded gasoline. However, if premium is required, it’s important to stick to that despite the higher cost.
Some claim that premium gasoline provides better overall gas mileage. While this may be true between different brands of gas, it isn’t necessarily true of the octane level. Engine performance may be slightly enhanced, but it’s rarely noticeable unless you perform a quick acceleration. Most people prefer to save the money and opt for unleaded gasoline.
Another perception is that the occasional tank of premium gasoline helps keep the car’s engine clean and prevent carbon deposits. While this was true years ago, the government has placed more regulations in recent years aimed at cutting emissions, meaning that all grades of gas now contain detergents and additives aimed at both cutting emissions and protecting engines.
In short, unless your owner’s manual requires it, there are no substantial benefits to purchasing premium gasoline.