Could Using Cheaper Gasoline for Your Car End up Costing You More?

Hannah DeWitt
· 4 min read
Many drivers believe that using the wrong gasoline can cause
car damage
. If you're curious about what the octane levels of gasoline really mean, what the different
types of fuel
are, and if higher grades are necessary for your car, we've got you covered. 
Depending on your car, using “Standard” gas instead of “Premium” might be bad for your car.

Grade and octane ratings of gasoline

Have you ever noticed those numbers on fuel pumps for the different types of fuel? Those are octane ratings. Without going too deep into chemistry or engineering, we'll keep things simple. The octane rating is simply a measurement of how heat-resistant the gasoline is. 
Octane ratings won't really improve combustion efficiency. Instead, higher ratings prevent the air-fuel mixture from igniting before it's supposed to. The lower the octane level, the more likely mistimed combustion is to occur. Using too low of an octane level on your car can cause your engine to "knock." This is an aptly named term, as it will literally sound like your engine is knocking. 
As for the grade, that will depend on your state's regulations. Generally speaking, "standard" or "regular" gas has an octane rating of 87. "Midgrade" will have an octane rating of 89, and "Premium" will have an octane of 92. 
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Do I need to use premium gasoline?

This ultimately depends on what car you drive. If your car is still under warranty, we highly recommend that you follow the manufacturer's fuel guidelines. Otherwise, it may nullify your warranty if you use a different type than it specifies on a regular basis. 
If you drive a newer car that is no longer under warranty, things are a little more flexible. According to
The Drive
, you can put regular gas in a car that requires premium gas if you're in a pinch. That's because the car's computer system will make adjustments to the spark timing to keep things running smoothly. 
However, this isn't recommended, and should only be done if you're in a bind. It's always worth double-checking the owner's manual before you do any kind of fuel experiment. 
If your car only needs regular gas, feel free to fill up on premium, even though there isn't any benefit to it. 

Common gas myths

In the past, using premium fuel on an old beater could help it perform better. Today, that's not the case. Years ago, only premium fuel had detergent additives that would clean fuel injectors. With new gasoline regulations, even the cheap stuff now has detergent additives. Therefore, there's no reason to use premium gas if your car doesn't require it. 
Another popular myth is to never use off-brand gasoline. We've all seen that one gas station that looks a little suspect. The reality is, all gasoline in the United States has to meet specific standards in order to be sold. Chances are, the crummy old gas station has the exact same fuel as the shiny new station across town. 

Take care of your car in more ways than one

No matter which fuel your car requires, you’ll need car insurance.
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