What are you paying for at the pumps?

Marketing works and the gasoline industry, as usual, is cashing in.  Many cars in the U.S. are built to run on regular gasoline.  However, when drivers pull up to the pumps many of them believe they are getting better quality fuel when they purchase premium over regular.  In a clear majority of cases, they are wasting their money according the American Automobile Association (AAA). 

The automobile support company estimates that drivers wasted $2.1 billion last year buying premium fuel despite the fact their vehicle manufacturer optimized the performance of their car to work fine on regular gasoline.  Some machines, such as high compression turbo and supercharged engines, do require higher octane fuels like premium, but the majority of our daily drivers do not.

Most gas stations offer three octane grades: regular (87 octane), mid-grade (89 to 90 octane) and premium (91 to 92 octane).

So AAA put the hypothesis to the test to see if any benefit was being recognized by those who buy premium when it is not required.   They tested fuel economy, emissions and overall performance as part of their report.  Their conclusion, no benefit is gained pumping premium gas into a car that only requires regular grade fuel.

So why do they do it?  It is simple perception and marketing.  Vehicle owners see the ‘premium’ name at the pump and assume the fuel is better for their vehicle.  The reality is AAA is cautioning drivers that premium gas is higher octane, but of no greater quality and they urge drivers to follow their manufacturer’s instructions when selecting gas.

Marketing by fuel companies portrays premium gasoline as a wonderful way to maximize your vehicle’s performance.  Unfortunately, the extra costs for the premium gasoline does nothing for performance and is better spent on other maintenance items such as fuel injection cleaner.

By Jamie Barrie