Making Things Gassy: Regular vs. Premium

We’ve all been there — standing at the gas pump, looking at the fuelling options and thinking to ourselves, “maybe this time, I’ll go premium.” Sometimes you might actually go for the higher octane, thinking it’s a good way to help keep the engine clean, or that you’re getting better mileage per gallon. But is that really the case? What really is the difference between regular gas and premium gas anyway?

Well, here’s some food for thought…

Premium gas gets more power; but not enough to make it worth it

If you think premium gas is better for your vehicle because it will increase power and last longer (meaning you don’t have to fill up as often) then you are correct. But only sort of. For example, the energy per unit volume is often dependant on the blend of hydrocarbons in the gasoline, meaning a higher octane gas doesn’t always mean more energy.

Yet, a recent study suggests that some vehicles will increase their power by 1 to 2 per cent while burning a fuel with higher octane levels. However, a 1 to 2 per cent increase of power in a small, commuter vehicle doesn’t necessarily prove to be worth the $15 – 20 more you could spend on gas.

Additives are nice but aren’t necessarily needed.

Additives will do things like help remove gunk and break-up any growing clogs in the engine system. These can make premium gasolines appealing as an “every now and then” option, and that kind of thinking wouldn’t be completely wrong. However, many researchers agree that the benefits of these additives don’t usually manifest until after a few fill-ups in a row. The result is a customer who has to pay the higher price at least twice before seeing the return on their investment (which makes the marketers happy).

The key is to keep up on your vehicle’s regular maintenance schedule, which will produce similar results.

Do what the manufacturer suggests

The reality is that higher octane gasolines are meant for higher performing cars. What a higher octane means is tha the engine can withstand more compression prior to detonating. Luxury and high performance vehicles have a higher compression ratio and are often designed for premium gasolines. So, essentially, If you’re driving on a race track and pushing your vehicle to its limits on a regular basis, you’ll want the more premium gas. But your Kia Rio that gets you to and from work each day will run well on regular gas.