Premium Versus Regular Gas: What’s the Difference?

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Annette Maxon
Updated on Apr 15, 2022 · 6 min read
Premium and regular gas differ by octane levels, which impacts the amount of compression the fuel can handle before combusting. To decide between premium and regular gas, it is best to go with the grade recommended by your manufacturer. 
Have you found yourself standing at the pump wondering which of the three (or four) gas offerings to choose? With the prices ranging by fifty cents, it can quickly be assumed that the pricier premium gasoline is the “best” quality.
However, premium gas is not necessarily better for your car. That’s why
car insurance
comparison app
Jerry
created this guide to help you decode regular gas versus premium, so you can get the best mileage and longest life out of your car. 
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Regular gas versus premium

The difference between premium and regular gas comes down to the amount of compression they can handle before combusting. Though it may sound like something to avoid at all costs, your engine is designed to “combust” at very specific times—this optimizes the engine’s performance. 
So,
choosing the right gas
is key to getting the best performance out of your vehicle’s engine. 

Regular gas 

The least expensive option at the pump, regular gas works well for most engines. Generally, this type has the lowest octane rating at 87
Again, if your car does not specifically require premium gas, regular is the best option because it stands up to regular engines—and protects your wallet. 

Premium gas 

Premium gas
often carries an expensive price tag at the pump (typically fifty cents more than regular gasoline). Required by high-performance engines with high compression ratios or turbochargers, premium gas has an octane rating of 93 to withstand the pressure.
If your car requires premium gas, it is best to pay the extra money to keep your car in optimum condition. You can look it up in your owner’s manual if you’re unsure what your car requires. 

What are octane ratings?

Octane ratings
are important for understanding the difference between premium and regular gasoline. These ratings assign a number grade based on the gasoline’s ability to prevent pre-ignition, or combustion, of the air-fuel mixture. 
Generally, the higher the number grade, the higher the compression the fuel can withstand. By contrast, fuels with low octane ratings will detonate at lower compression levels. 
Most cars are equipped with internal combustion engines that are designed to combust at very specific times, optimizing the vehicle’s performance. However, if the engine combusts too soon, this can cause pinging or knocking sounds in the engine. These sounds indicate that your vehicle needs the premium-grade fuel that can withstand higher compression. 
Fortunately, this can happen now and then without causing any harm to your vehicle. But, if you notice signs of the engine combusting prematurely on a regular basis, then it might be time to check whether you’re using the right gasoline. Continued use of the wrong gas type may damage your engine’s performance.
Key takeaway Octane ratings communicate the level of compression the fuel can withstand before combusting. If your octane level is too low for your vehicle, then you may hear pinging or knocking sounds coming from your engine.

Do I need premium gas?

It depends—start by finding out what gasoline type is recommended by the manufacturer. If the manufacturer says to only use premium, then it is best to pay the extra dollars to make sure your engine works at its optimum levels. 
For cars that recommend premium, but do not require it, the choice is up to you! If you can drive your car with regular gasoline and don’t notice any knocking or pinging sounds, then no need to worry. But, if you do start noticing sounds coming from your engine, then your engine will likely perform better on premium gasoline. 
If your car requires regular gas, simply follow that recommendation. The Federal Trade Commission states that
using fuels with higher-octane levels
than is recommended by your manufacturer will not improve your car’s performance. It is a myth that premium gas will give your car better performance and mileage—trust that your manufacturer is steering you in the right direction!

Is premium gas better? 

No! Even though it comes at a higher price point, your car will not benefit from premium gas unless specifically required by the manufacturer
Keep in mind, the main benefit of premium gas is that it has a higher octane level and compression ratio. This higher-compression ratio is beneficial only to cars with high-compression engines or turbochargers.
Today, all gasoline grades include EPA-mandated additives that keep engines conditioned and running smoothly. So, even regular gas will keep your engine running smoothly. 

Top Tier Gasoline

The Top Tier Gasoline standard was created by a group of name brand manufacturers (i.e. Audi, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen). This standard requires a higher level of detergents in gasoline than is typically required by the EPA. 
So, when you purchase Top Tier gasoline, you can rest easy knowing that both the standard and premium options have additives that will keep your engine happy and healthy.  

Differences in premium gas—by state and manufacturer

Not all premium gas is identical— the octane level in premium varies by state and manufacturer. However, the octane grade is at 91 or 93 across the nation. 

Differences by manufacturer

Each manufacturer has a unique formula for premium gas. Therefore, differences can exist between the premium gas offered at Shell, ExxonMobil, and other gasoline companies.
Shell and ExxonMobil have the best-known formulas out there. Each manufacturer designed a formula with specific benefits in mind:
  • Shell’s V-Power NiTRO+ formula contains cleaning agents to remove any corrosion and gunk that may have built up in the fuel system components while also providing a protective barrier against future wear
  • ExxonMobil’s Synergy Supreme+ uses a friction modifier to protect the engine from general wear and tear by removing gasoline residue

Finding affordable car insurance

Even though gas prices can be incredibly high, even when opting for the cheaper regular gas, not all parts of car ownership have to be pricey. 
Car insurance
, for example, shouldn’t have to carry a hefty price tag. That’s where
Jerry
comes in—the car insurance super app is the easiest and most effective way to find an insurance policy that is customized for you but doesn’t break the bank
A licensed broker that offers end-to-end support, the Jerry app gathers affordable quotes, helps you switch plans, and can even help you cancel your old policy.
And to ensure you always have the lowest rate, Jerry will send you new quotes every time your policy comes up for renewal, so you’re always getting the coverage you want at the best price. This level of service is why Jerry earned a 4.6/5 rating on the App Store and made it the top insurance app in the country.
 “I was paying $500 a month for insurance, and I needed help.
Jerry
canceled my previous plan and found me a $342 plan through Infinity. Jerry, you are awesome!” —Hans M.
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FAQs

In general, no. Premium gas is formulated to withstand the high compression engines and turbochargers found in some select vehicles. If your manufacturer does not specifically recommend premium gasoline, it’s not worth the money—premium gas does not influence your car’s performance or mileage
However, if you have a car that specifically requires premium gas then the premium option is worth the money. The higher octane levels in premium gas will allow your car’s high compression engine to function properly and efficiently in the long run.
Nothing! Fortunately, most cars can function on either type without any noticeable difference. However, if you have a car that needs premium gas, you may notice some pinging and knocking sounds coming from your engine—don’t worry if this happens! The sound is caused by the regular fuel combusting too soon for your engine. 
Fortunately, this will not damage the car if it happens every now and then. But if it happens with regularity, then your engine’s performance may start to decline.

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