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Is Premium Fuel Worth the Cost? Yes and No

Road & Track logo Road & Track 12/14/2017 Chris Perkins
a man standing in front of a car: Is Premium Fuel Worth the Cost? Yes and No© FPG/Hulton Archive Is Premium Fuel Worth the Cost? Yes and No

A lot of cars on sale today recommend that you fill up with premium-grade fuel (91 octane or higher), but don't require it. If you own, or have driven, one such car, you've probably wondered what (if any) benefits premium fuel provides and if it's worth the extra cost. AAA recently released a study that explores these very questions, and the answers aren't totally black and white.

In the study, AAA performed various dyno tests on six different cars and trucks and found that premium fuel generally provides slight improvements in performance and efficiency. There's a "but," though. AAA found that in all the vehicles tested, the cost of using premium fuel doesn't outweigh the money saved by any fuel efficiency gains you'll see.

a screenshot of a cell phone© AAA

But don't let that turn you off premium entirely. In some instances, using premium fuel provided a significant horsepower boost, and if you're buying a performance car, those benefits are probably worth it to you. That extra horsepower will probably be useful if you have a truck and you're towing and/or hauling significant weight too. And in the case of the 2016 Audi A3 1.8T, AAA experienced significant knock when using regular fuel, so definitely go premium there.

The benefits of using premium fuel will be different in every car too. In a statement, AAA ultimately says it "recommends drivers weigh the potential benefits against the cost of using premium gasoline, if their vehicle does not require it."

And obviously, if your car requires premium fuel, use it. You could experience significant knock and detriments to performance and efficiency otherwise.

You can read the full report over at AAA's website, and also check out the video from Jason Fenske at Engineering Explained below. Fenske looks at AAA's results more in depth and explains why premium fuel can offer the benefits it does.

Related video(provided by The Drive)


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