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Regular vs Premium Gas: What You Need to Know

Anyone who's ever seen the prompt "Select Fuel Type" at the gas pump is probably already aware that you can purchase different types of gas. But what, exactly, is the difference between these options, and which one is the best choice for your vehicle?

To help clear up some of the confusion, let's look at the difference between regular and premium gas and whether premium gas is worth the extra cost.

Different colored gas pumps.

The Difference Between Regular and Premium Gas

The primary difference between regular and premium gas is the octane rating. Regular gas typically has an octane rating of 87, while premium gas tends to have an octane rating of 91 or higher. The higher a fuel's octane rating is, the more compression it can withstand before combusting.

In practical terms, this means higher octane fuel is less prone to knocking or pinging during combustion. Knocking and pinging occur when the fuel/air mixture combusts on its own before being ignited by the spark plug, which can lead to engine damage. In high-performance engines designed to burn premium fuel, the higher octane rating of premium gas can yield improved performance. These engines can take advantage of the fuel's higher knock threshold to improve performance via higher boost pressures and more aggressive ignition timing. This is why most sports cars and luxury vehicles require premium fuel.

Why Is Premium Gas More Expensive?

On average, premium gas costs $0.75 more per gallon than regular gas. The main reason for this higher price tag is the fact that premium gas requires a more complex refining process to produce. It also requires additional detergents and additives not found in regular gas. Lastly, premium gas caters to a niche market of people who own vehicles with high-performance engines, and this lower demand for premium gas compared to regular is another factor that influences its price.

Which One Should You Use for Your Vehicle?

It's a common misconception that putting premium gas in your vehicle will improve its performance regardless of your vehicle's make and model. However, the reality is that if your vehicle is not designed to burn premium fuel, then there is no benefit to paying extra for it.

Putting premium fuel in a vehicle not designed to take advantage of its higher octane rating doesn't yield any substantial benefits, but it also won't hurt anything (except maybe your wallet!). Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for putting regular gas in a vehicle designed to use premium. Putting regular gas in an engine meant to burn premium gas can result in severe knocking and, ultimately, engine damage. Worst of all, manufacturer warranties do not usually cover engine damage caused by using the wrong fuel type.

If you aren't sure which type of fuel your vehicle needs, you can always check your owner's manual to be certain; whatever it recommends will be your best bet!


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