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Premium Fuel: Myth vs. Reality – Is It Still Safe to Use in Any Car?

Premium Fuel: Myth vs. Reality – Is It Still Safe to Use in Any Car?

One costly mistake many drivers make is not paying attention at the gas station. We’ve heard stories of people putting the wrong fuel in their tanks. But what about premium gas? Can you put premium gas in any car or mix premium and regular gas?

Today, we’re deciphering the myth from reality regarding premium fuel. If you make this mistake, you’ll know what to do.

Let’s get started!

Should You Buy Premium Gas for Your Car? Myth Busted

How Is Premium Gas Different From Regular Gas?

The first thing we need to examine is how premium gas and regular gas differ. The primary difference is the octane rating. This rating indicates a fuel’s ability to resist knocking and pinging in an engine. This occurs when the fuel ignites in the engine too fast or slow. The higher the octane, the more resistant it is to these situations in high-compression engines.

Generally, premium gas is for high-performance engines. You’ll typically find these in sports cars and luxury vehicles. The gasoline works better in higher compression environments that often use turbochargers and advanced ignition systems.

Trucks fueling up at gas station
Trucks fueling up at gas station

Can You Put Premium Gas in Any Car?

You can put premium gas in any car. However, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Unless your vehicle calls for it, you’ll not likely see any benefit. You won’t notice any increased power or performance from your engine. The only difference will be you’ll pay a premium.

On the other hand, you may not be as lucky if you put regular gas into a vehicle requiring premium gas. Since regular fuel has a lower octane rating, it could ignite prematurely. If your car calls for premium gas, ensure you use it. If not, do yourself and your wallet a favor and stick with regular.

So its actually regular gasoline that can be more dangerous in car requiring premium than the other way around.

Pro Tip: If it’s time for a fill up, you’ll want to know which states don’t trust you to pump your own gas.

Can You Mix Premium and Regular Gas?

It is possible to mix premium and regular gas. However, you must consider that the octane level will be the average of the two. Imagine your fuel tank contains 50% premium fuel with a 91-octane rating. You then accidentally grab the wrong handle and fill it with regular fuel with an 87-octane rating. Once it mixes, you now have fuel with an 89-octane rating.

This will be fine for drivers needing regular gasoline. However, premium drivers are gambling if they mix premium and regular gas. If your vehicle requires premium fuel, use it exclusively. On the other hand, if your car uses regular gas, use regular gas. It’s best to follow what the manufacturer recommends.

Premium gas gas station
While premium gas won’t harm your vehicle, it may not be necessary for your car.

What Are the Benefits of Premium Gas? 

There are benefits to using premium gas over other fuels. Let’s look at some of the ways it benefits drivers.

Smoother Run and Higher Horsepower

Premium gas allows an engine to run smoother and deliver more horsepower. However, this is only in high-compression or turbocharged engines. Vehicles like the Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911, or the BMW M series have powerful motors requiring premium fuel. Many Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Lexus models also need it.

We sound like a broken record, but this will only happen if your car takes premium gas. If it doesn’t, you won’t likely notice any improvement. This means your Toyota Corolla won’t suddenly have the horsepower of a Ford Mustang.

Improved Engine Performance

Another benefit of premium fuel is improved engine performance. Igniting at the appropriate time during the compression stroke helps the engine deliver more power during accelerations. Again, sorry to break your heart, but your Corolla won’t rocket like a Mustang.

Enhanced Fuel Efficiency

In vehicles that use premium fuel, the fuel can keep your fuel system clean. This is because it often contains additives and detergents that prevent deposits from sitting on your engine or fuel injectors.

Unfortunately, if you’re driving a vehicle with a high-performance engine, you may not notice the fuel savings. You likely didn’t spend all that money on a fancy car to not enjoy the horsepower. However, you will benefit from a cleaner fuel system, which can help avoid costly repairs.

Some non high-performance engines but high economy engines require premium fuel as well. In fact, our Chevy Volt requires premium even tho it’s just an 80Hp engine! Why? well, its designed to operate at peak fuel economy. The car runs just fine on regular fuel because the computer compensates for it, but the fuel economy drops.

car manual octane requirements
Check your manual for octane requirements. Our Chevy Volt requires premium.

What Are the Disadvantages of Premium Gas?

While premium gas is the best option for some vehicles, there are disadvantages to needing to use it. If you’re considering a car requiring premium gas, you’ll want to know these disadvantages.

Increased Cost

One of the most obvious disadvantages of using premium gas is the premium price. Gas is expensive, but premium fuel typically costs an extra $.50 per gallon. This expense can add up yearly depending on your driving style and how often you need to drive.

For example, using 20 gallons of gas weekly may only be an extra $10. Over a year, this amounts to $520. If you’re anything like us, you likely use more than 20 gallons of gas most weeks. If you have two premium vehicles, that’s more than $1,000 extra each year.

No Benefit to Most Vehicles

Again, you will only benefit from premium gas if you drive a high-performance car. While you see these vehicles on the road, they’re the minority. Most drivers use regular gas because their vehicle’s manufacturer recommends it. Unless it’s the only fuel available, you’re wasting money by filling your tank with premium fuel.

Modern vehicles are incredibly intelligent and rely on sophisticated computer systems. They can adjust the engine to accommodate different octane fuels. However, it has little benefit. In some instances, the vehicle may produce less power when using premium fuel.

Hand pumping gas
Your owners manual or gas cap will tell you whether or not you need premium gas.

Limited Availability in Some Areas

Premium fuel is not always available because it isn’t the go-to fuel for every driver. If you’re running on fumes, you don’t want to waste your time pulling into a station where you can’t fill up. However, with more drivers purchasing high-performance vehicles, this may not be as much of a problem.

Additionally, we recommend using apps like GasBuddy or one for your favorite national chain. These can make locating nearby stations convenient. You can also see which offers premium fuel. If there’s no cell phone service, watch the gas station signs. They’ll typically advertise the premium gas price alongside the regular.

Pro Tip: Want to save money at the gas pump? Find out Does Using AC in Your Car Actually Use Gas?

Regular Gas vs. Premium Gas | Consumer Reports

Is Premium Gas Safe to Use in Your Car?

Premium gas is safe to use in your vehicle. However, just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. Its actually regular gas that’s more damaging to use if the car requires premium.

If you don’t need to or won’t benefit from it, there’s no reason to put it in your tank. Check your owner’s manual or look at your gas cap. It will typically tell you exactly what fuel to put in your tank.

Have you ever used premium or regular gas in the wrong vehicle? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Dan Guyor

Saturday 29th of July 2023

Chad (Changing Lanes) and I share the same problem with premium vs. regular fuel. Our Big Twin motorcycles require 91 octane or better to keep the engine from knocking when pulling up a hill or off the light riding 2-up. That spark knock will cause more damage to the engine than I care to deal with. In the bike it's premium for me. What's disappointing is that most of the fuel stations have a single hose, so I get someone else's regular gas until the premium comes up from the pump. That and I'm leaving the same amount of premium for the next driver.

As for the Bounder and the Toad, I only need 87 octane (That's according to Ford and Jeep, regardless what the forums say) and that's all that goes in there. There's no reason to spend the extra money to get even the mid-grade when there's no difference in performance for me.

Safe travels.