My car requires premium gasoline. Can I switch to regular gasoline to save on high gas prices?

With premium gasoline costing drivers 65 cents more per gallon on average than regular gasoline starting Tuesday, drivers may be tempted to fill their tanks with regular gasoline to save money.

But is it a good idea?

Experts say the right choice of fuel will depend on the type of vehicle you drive. If your car requires premium gasoline, switching to regular gasoline can help reduce costs at the pump, but can also lead to expensive repairs later.

“If I had a car that needed (premium gas) and there was a huge price gap and I was going on a trip, you could probably get away with it,” COO Jason MacDonald said. at Village Ford, a dealer in Michigan. “But I wouldn’t take the risk.”

Martin Bruinsma, 65, takes photos of gas prices in Los Angeles.  Regular gasoline prices topped $4 a gallon on average in the United States on Sunday for the first time since 2008.

Martin Bruinsma, 65, takes photos of gas prices in Los Angeles. Regular gasoline prices topped $4 a gallon on average in the United States on Sunday for the first time since 2008.

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What is the difference between regular, intermediate and premium gasoline?

Most gas stations sell three types of gasoline: regular, intermediate, and premium. Some stations have different names for each grade – like unleaded, super, extra, supreme, or super premium – but they all refer to different octane levels.

Typically, regular fuel has an octane rating of 87. Mid-tier, a mixture of regular fuel and premium fuel, has an octane rating of 89 or 90, while premium is between 91 and 94, depending on the US Energy Information Administration. The odds differ slightly from state to state.

“It may seem like a foreign number to some people, but what it really means is the ability of gasoline to withstand detonation or explosion before it’s supposed to,” said Greg Brannon, Director of Automotive Engineering at AAA, at USA TODAY.

Typically, regular fuel has an octane rating of 87. Mid-tier, a mixture of regular fuel and premium fuel, has an octane rating of 89 or 90, while premium is between 91 and 94, depending on US Energy Information.  Administration.

Typically, regular fuel has an octane rating of 87. Mid-tier, a mixture of regular fuel and premium fuel, has an octane rating of 89 or 90, while premium is between 91 and 94, depending on the US Energy Information Administration.

Simply put, higher octane ratings mean the fuel is more stable, which is a necessity for some engines.

“If the octane is not high enough for the particular situation, the fuel will ignite because it gets hot, and that either causes detonation or detonation. And it’s really bad for your engine,” Brannon said.

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Can I use regular gasoline if my car requires premium?

Experts have advised against switching to regular gasoline if a vehicle requires a premium.

If a vehicle requires high-octane gas but is filled with low-octane gas, drivers risk damaging the powertrain, which includes the engine, transmission and other components, MacDonald said. . Powertrain damage could cost $20,000 to $30,000 in engine repairs plus labor costs, he said.

Brannon noted that most cars have sensors that can help some vehicles run on low-octane gas even if they’re built for premium gas, but switching gas can still cause damage.

“It’s really not a good idea,” he said. “The engine may not be able to adapt (to normal gas).”

Brannon added that drivers who use regular gasoline in a premium-requiring vehicle could void their warranty.

Drivers can tell what kind of gasoline their vehicle needs by looking at their owner’s manual or their gas tank door. Brannon estimates that about 75% of cars on the road take off regularly.

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My car says premium gasoline is recommended. Can I fill up with regular gasoline?

But what should drivers do when told that premium gasoline is recommended but not required?

Brannon said AAA research found there are “very, very small differences” in performance and fuel economy when these vehicles use the recommended premium gasoline versus low-grade gasoline. octane number.

“When a car recommends a premium, you might only get a percentage point or two in fuel economy and power if you’re using premium fuel over the usual,” Brannon said.

With gasoline prices rising, he recommends that those drivers use regular gasoline “in the vast majority of cases.” Certain circumstances, such as pulling a heavy load, may make premium gasoline worth the higher cost.

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Which vehicles require premium gasoline?

Fuel requirements vary from vehicle to vehicle, but Brannon said premium fuel requirements are more common among sports cars, luxury sedans with high-horsepower engines, and engines with turbochargers.

“A luxury brand is not at all concerned with the cost of ownership because the vehicle itself is very expensive,” he said. “They are trying to get the maximum performance out of this car. If they have to require their customers to use the premium, that’s fine. Their customers understand this and hopefully will continue to do so.

At Village Ford, Chairman Jim Seavitt said most Ford vehicles run on regular gasoline and only high-performance Mustangs use premium.

“I have a Mustang Shelby that has to use premium. If it’s a high performance vehicle, it uses premium and people who buy a high performance car expect to put premium in it,” said Seavitt said.

Should I use premium gasoline instead of regular gasoline if it’s not necessary?

Some drivers put premium gasoline in cars that run on regular gasoline, hoping for better performance. But Brannon said it was a waste of money.

“It literally comes out the tailpipe with no benefit to you as a consumer,” Brannon said.

Looking for top quality essences? Brannon recommends looking for stations that offer “top-notch” gasoline, which meets certain standards for enhanced detergent additives and can keep engines cleaner.

The AAA recommends that drivers look for a premium fuel that is the correct grade for their vehicle.

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“It’s easy to get confused with all the marketing that’s done around premium fuel,” Brannon said. But premium gas “will actually keep the engine running longer, happier, (with) better fuel economy, etc.”

He added that top-level fuel prices are “comparable” to other gas prices. Drivers interested in finding top tier gas stations nearby can search online at https://www.toptiergas.com/.

Brock Gunter, an automotive instructor at Idaho State University, added that drivers looking to save on fuel costs should pay more attention to how they drive.

“Just stay away from the gas,” he said. “Go nice and smooth. It makes a huge difference.”

Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: High Gas Prices: Can Drivers Switch to Regular Gas to Save Money?

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