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Money Leaks: Buying Premium Gasoline

I have a friend who absolutely loves his car. It’s not a fancy car, it’s just new to him and he treats it like his baby. He takes very good care of it, gets it washed once a week (more if he gets it dirty), and is generally a very caring owner. He also fills up with premium gasoline because, well, he thinks the gas is “better.” The only problem is that, just like his once a week car washes, he’s leaking money like crazy. While it’s debatable whether or not you really need to wash your car once a week, it’s almost certainly a leak if you go to a car wash, putting premium gasoline into a car that doesn’t need one is completely unnecessary. It’s as bad as putting regular unleaded into a car that demand premium.

Is premium gasoline better? “Yes.” Yes is in quotes because it’s better at handling compression. The higher octane means it can be compressed more before exploding. Cars that require premium gasoline will compress the gasoline to much higher PSI before igniting it. If you put regular unleaded into a premium gasoline engine, it’ll misfire. The fuel will ignite before the engine is ready and that’s the reason you’ll hear “knocking.”

This is the latest edition of our Money Leaks [3] series.

When you put premium gasoline into an engine designed for regular unleaded, it’s like NFL playoff-bound teams playing their starters in the final game of the regular season. There’s no added benefit to using the better stuff, it just costs more. Your car doesn’t run better, it doesn’t run more efficiently, it simply costs more for the gasoline. Higher octane [4] doesn’t not mean better fuel, it’s just different fuel that’s more expensive to manufacture.

If you want to treat your car better, avoid driving like a maniac [5], which increases wear and tear (and carpool!).

(Photo: robbn1 [6])