Which Fuel Should You Be Using? The Differences Between Unleaded and Super

Most gas stations offer three choices to customers: regular, premium and diesel. While you know diesel is not the right fuel for most cars, you might wonder if pay a dime or two more per gallon for premium grade gasoline is worth it. While most cars can operate with both regular and premium grade gasoline, not every car will benefit from premium grade. Gas prices always increase in the summer due to demand caused by travel. Knowing the difference between regular and premium gas is useful information, as you can save a few bucks at the pump using regular, or your car may actually need premium gas for performance purposes.

So what is premium grade gas?

The differences between the gasoline types really come down to their octane ratings. It costs more to make gasoline with higher octane ratings, which is why premium comes with a slightly higher price. You probably do not care so much about the chemistry and make-up of RON, so we will stick to how it affects your car.

For the most part, gasoline with higher octane levels is designed for high-performance engines or vehicles in need of a more efficient pull, such as turbo, supercharged, or non-gasoline pick-ups meant for hauling. This is why two of the major benefits or premium grade gasoline is that it improves engine performance, better pulling at lower revolutions and smoother and quieter rides. Premium fuel burns slower than regular, making it optimal for high-performance engines. The slower burning fuel increases torque and pulling power due to its more efficient combustion, and also leads to a slight, but mostly unnoticeable, increase in fuel efficiency.

Another benefit to premium grade fuel is it helps reduce engine knocking. Engine knocking occurs when unused fuel in the engine combusts early, which could lead to damages on internal materials. High-performance vehicles are more susceptible to engine combustion than the average sedan.

Certain engines are built to run on premium and high octane fuels. If your car’s performance seems underwhelming, check the operators manual for information on which fuel your car requires to run efficiently.

If you are an owner of the average sedan and still curious on how premium grade can help your vehicle, there are a few benefits. To start, premium grade fuel comes with additives that help keep your engine clean. In addition, it is actually recommended that vehicles with high miles should use premium grade fuel to milk additional miles out of the engine. But even if your vehicle has low miles, premium fuel coupled with synthetic oil can have a lasting and noticeable impact on your vehicle’s longevity.

Consumer Reports recently put these different types of gasoline to the test by using quality sedans—2015 Acura TLX four-cylinder and a 2016 Nissan Maxima V6—and monitoring performance. At the conclusion of the test, Consumer Reports found that vehicles with premium-grade recommendations in the owners manual can operate the same with regular-grade. But cars with premium-grade requirements must absolutely use premium-grade gasoline, no ifs, ands or buts. That being said, if you currently use premium gasoline, but notice performance issues and knocking when switching to regular fuel, then switch back to premium permanently.

To wrap it all up, premium grade fuel is mostly intended for high-performance vehicles, but any non-diesel vehicle can use and even benefit from it. If you only use regular-grade gasoline, it might be a good idea to try premium-grade at least once to look for any noticeable performance changes.