Dave Deslauriers /

Regular vs Premium Fuel: What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between regular vs premium fuel? You see the numbers every time you fill up your gas tank. 87 Octane Regular, 89 Octane Mid, 91 or 93 Octane Premium. But what do they mean? Is there even a difference? Is it worth the extra cost to spring for premium? In this article we’ll answer all of those questions and provide you with a solid understanding of your different choices at the pump.

What are Octane Ratings?

Have you ever accidentally put regular fuel in a vehicle that recommends premium and then heard a “knocking” sound in the engine? The reason for the knock is due to the fuel prematurely igniting in the engine. An octane rating is essentially indicating how much compression a specific fuel can withstand before igniting. The lower the rating, the more quickly the fuel will ignite, and visa versa for a higher rating.

Can I Switch Between Regular and Premium Fuel?

Engines are complex pieces of machinery. As such, each engine is designed to operate optimally with a specific type of fuel. It’s important to utilize the proper octane rated fuel for your vehicle. Failing to do so can result in a loss of efficiency and performance as well as potentially cause permanent damage to your engine. If your vehicle requires 89 octane or higher, you never want to fill your tank with a lower octane. Conversely, if your vehicle requires 87 octane fuel, the risk of damage from using a higher rated fuel is less, however you’re not likely to see any additional performance, so it really is just a waste of money.

Does Higher Octane Equal Higher Performance?

You might think that higher octane automatically mean higher performance, however that is not necessarily the case. There are a multitude of factors that ultimately determine how high a vehicle performs and fuel is merely one of them.

What Type of Fuel Should I Put in my Vehicle?

When deciding between regular vs premium fuel, the type of vehicle you drive will generally dictate the route you should take. The vast majority of vehicles on the road are designed to operate with regular 87 octane fuel. However, there are plenty of vehicles, often higher performance vehicles, models, or trim levels, that require a higher octane rating. It’s crucial that you consult your owner’s manual and abide by the manufacturer’s recommendations for your specific vehicle.

A Warning

If your vehicle requires unleaded gasoline, diesel fuel is NEVER a substitute. Likewise, if your vehicle requires diesel fuel, you NEVER want to fill it up with regular gasoline of any octane rating. Putting the wrong fuel type into your vehicle will cause permanent damage and cost you thousands in repair bills.


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