When most people fuel up at the gas station, they tend to just go with the standard, cheaper unleaded options. However, the premium gas option is the cause of some debate. Some think it does nothing, while others say it’s vital for keeping your car in good shape. In reality, the truth is somewhere in the middle…

Premium Gas: Does It Really Matter?

How it’s different

What is it about premium gas that really makes it “premium”? It all comes down to what goes into the gas itself. Usually, your regular, standard unleaded options have about 87 percent octane. Meanwhile, your plus- or premium-grade options have around 89 to 91 percent octane.

However, there’s also another thing which most people don’t know about. This is the heptane levels in your gas. Heptane is like the opposite of octane, as it makes your fuel more likely to ignite under high-pressure. Low amounts of heptane and high amounts of octane come together to make your premium fuel.

Does it help?

While premium gas seems like it’s the perfect mixture, it actually probably won’t help your car all that much. Premium fuel usually helps with “knocking”, which is when fuel prematurely combusts in the engine. However, this is only really a problem in high-performance or large engines, which have more high-compression.

Most cars tend to use lower-compression engines. As a result, premium gas won’t really make a difference. It also won’t cause your engine to have some kind of “performance boost” or reduce wear, meaning it isn’t good for car maintenance. So unless you have a large truck, SUV, or luxury car, you’ll be fine with standard gas.

Why does the myth remain?

So if premium gas doesn’t really matter, why do many people seem to think it does? It turns out there’s a couple reasons behind this. Older car models didn’t have the ability to adjust to fuels with different octane levels, leading to knocking. As a result, many car companies or dealerships would recommend premium gas as a precaution.

However, since 1996, most cars have knock sensors in their engines. These sensors detect your octane levels, and adjust the engine to compensation and keep it running smoothly. As a result, unless your car absolutely requires premium fuel, you won’t notice any difference.