Americans wasted $2.1 billion on premium gas during the last year

Premium Gas
Premium? Nah. AAA

Hello America! You do not need to put premium fuel in your vehicle if the manufacturer does not require it.

And yet, Americans have spent some $2.1 billion during the past 12 months needlessly fuelling up on the best gas, according to a new report from AAA.

“With 16.5 million U.S. drivers having used premium fuel despite the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation in the last 12 months, AAA conducted a comprehensive fuel evaluation to determine what, if any, benefit the practice offers to consumers,” the organisation said in a statement.

“After using industry-standard test protocols designed to evaluate vehicle performance, fuel economy and emissions, AAA found no benefit to using premium gasoline in a vehicle that only requires regular-grade fuel.”

So why do drivers continue to act against their economic interest here, defying mechanical engineering along the way?

“Drivers see the ‘premium’ name at the pump and may assume the fuel is better for their vehicle,” John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair, said in a statement. “AAA cautions drivers that premium gasoline is higher octane, not higher quality, and urges drivers to follow the owner’s manual recommendations for their vehicle’s fuel.”

In-depth findings

AAA produced a 41-page report on its investigation and distilled it to three key findings:

1. Does an engine designed to operate on Regular gasoline produce more horsepower when operated on Premium?

No consistent differences in maximum horsepower were recorded.

2. Does an engine designed to operate on Regular gasoline get better fuel economy when operated on Premium?

No significant differences in fuel economy were recorded.

3. Does an engine designed to operate on Regular gasoline produce fewer tailpipe emissions when operated on Premium?

No consistent differences were recorded.

AAA arrived at its results by comparing the performance and emissions of different engines running on either 87 octane regular gas or 93 octane premium.

The conclusion was that you should just run your vehicle on the grade of fuel it’s rated for — and for 70% of the cars and trucks in the road, that’s regular. Just 16% demand premium.

The myth that premium is “better” for a car’s engine, according to AAA, has persisted over the decades. It typically reasserts its power when a technological innovation, such as fuel-injection, provides a marketing opportunity for gasoline companies.

That said, in an earlier report, AAA found that not all gas is created equal. Some fuels do indeed provide better cleaning and protection for engines.

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