Understanding How Octane Levels Affect your Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is an important topic in the automotive industry today. But, when you fuel up at the pump do you think about the octane level that is best for your vehicle? Does it really make a difference if you fill your tank with regular instead of premium?

The name premium definitely promotes the image of better fuel economy. More oomph per gallon. The truth is that premium provides no more energy than regular. The real difference lies in the blend of hydrocarbons used to make the fuel as well as the list of additives that are mixed in.

Additives are used to reduce carbon build-up in your engine, thus improving combustion and allowing for easier starting in colder climates. A key additive in your petrol is ethanol. It is added to boost the fuel’s octane rating. A higher rating equals a higher “compression ratio”, which increases the temperature in your combustion chamber. This is where your high-octane petrol is needed to produce more power and is designed for performance vehicles. If you have a high compression engine, you would be ill advised to use regular gas. However, if your vehicle’s manual says that premium is “recommended” and not “required” then the choice is yours. Your engine will adjust to run on the lower octane fuel. It will just produce less power and have slightly higher fuel consumption.

For regular Joe’s without high-compression engines, 87 unleaded is fine. When gas prices are at a high, you’ll still save more at the pump fueling up with regular than fueling up with premium. To sum it up, there are no advantages in using premium gas in a car that doesn’t require it. Go ahead and save those 15-20 cents per gallon. You’re not doing anything to mistreat your vehicle. So, rest easy and get yourself a little snack at the pump while you’re at it.