How to Choose the Right Fuel For Your Car

Sun Auto Service Expert, published on 02/12/2016

When you own a car, you are frequently faced with a decision at the pump: what kind of gas do you choose? Many individuals will go for the cheapest option, but is that the right choice for your vehicle? What is the difference between Unleaded, Premium, and High Octane Fuels? Is one better than the other? While there is a difference between Premium fuels and Unleaded, that doesn’t necessarily mean one is good or bad.

The Difference Between Premium and Unleaded

Premium and unleaded gas differ in their basic makeup. Regular unleaded gas is crude oil’s highly flammable byproduct and is the world’s most common form of gasoline. Premium gas has a higher level of additives to keep engines cleaner and minimize emissions. As far as your car is concerned, these gas types vary most in three categories:

  • Engine life expectancy: Unleaded gas is suited to an engine with a low compression ratio because it burns quicker. Conversely, premium is best for engines with turbocharging or high compression ratios due to its higher resistance to ignition. However, premium options do burn cleaner and can lead to longer engine life for all vehicles.
  • Cost: Generally, premium is 20 to 40 cents more per gallon, which can lead to a significant difference in annual fuel expenses.
  • Octane rating: While regular unleaded gas usually has an octane rating of 87, premium options are typically 90 and above. Octane ratings refer to the fuel’s ability to resist pinging and/or pre-ignition.

What’s Best for Your Car?

It’s important to note that while you can always go up a grade higher with fuel, you never want to choose a grade lower. If your vehicle requires Premium fuel, it is not recommended to use Unleaded. Be sure to consult your vehicle’s instruction manual to determine what fuel your vehicle manufacturer recommends. Frankly, some cars will run better with premium, while others simply will not. Here is how you can figure out what’s best for your car:

  • Check the owner’s manual: Dig out your old manual and find the section regarding fuel. It should tell you all about what’s best for your engine.
  • Take a test drive: If your vehicle uses Regular Unleaded gas, there’s no harm in testing how it reacts to Premium fuel. Drive your car with premium gas and then regular unleaded. Compare how it runs given the fuel difference, then you can determine whether the performance of your vehicle outweighs the cost difference.
  • Pay attention to how you use your car: Vehicles encountering frequent rugged terrain or use will perform better with premium gas because the fuel is more resistant to combustion and pinging.

Our experts at Sun Auto Service want you to know it is not about what fuel is good or bad. The real question you should ask is what kind of gas is best for your car and driving style? Once you answer this inquiry, you can safely choose what type of fuel will keep your vehicle up and running for years (and miles) to come!