How Much Money Are You Wasting on Gas Every Year?

Gas prices

Gas prices | Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

Earlier this year, AAA was able to prove that cheap gas can have a starkly negative impact on engines over time, and that by putting Top Tier-rated fuel in their tank, car owners can clean out deposits and protect vital components within the fuel system. It was a time-consuming, detailed, and informative look at the risks involved with going to the no-name gas station instead of the recognizable brand in order to save a few pennies at the pump. Now, AAA has released a new slew of fuel-related findings, and this time around they are focusing on the premium stuff.

While going with something detergent-filled from Shell, BP, or Exxon is still advisable, opting for the most high performance fuel available is not always beneficial either. New research claims that U.S. drivers “wasted more than $2.1 billion dollars in the last year by using premium-grade gasoline in vehicles designed to run on regular fuel.” Apparently 16.5 million drivers were guilty of this infraction, and in order to prove that opting for premium truly was pointless, AAA conducted a series of tests that evaluated vehicle performance, fuel economy, and emissions. While higher quality, Top Tier fuels did return favorable results over the cheap stuff, AAA reports that it “found no benefit to using premium gasoline in a vehicle that only requires regular-grade fuel.”

Shell Nitro fuel

Shell Nitro fuel | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

“Drivers see the ‘premium’ name at the pump and may assume the fuel is better for their vehicle,” says John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “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.”

Working alongside the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA first put 87-octane (regular) and then 93-octane (premium) gasoline in vehicles equipped with V8, V6, and four-cylinder engines that only required regular-grade fuel. Each vehicle was then put on a dyno in order to measure horsepower, fuel economy, and emissions, as AAA examined how both fuel types behaved under an array of driving conditions. Results showed no significant increase in any tested category, thus proving that premium gasoline does not offer an advantage over regular unleaded in cars that don’t call for it.

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