Your car may be precious to you, but so is your budget. So, is cheap gas bad for your car?
When it comes to fueling your vehicle, you might have trouble choosing the right gasoline option. People warn you’ll destroy it’s motor if you opt for the cheaper fuel as opposed to the premium grade, or if you go to an independent gas station with lower prices that could be a death sentence for your ride.
Before we can answer these questions, let’s understand some gasoline basics.
Regular, Plus, and Premium
Most gas stations carry three forms of gasoline, that’s the source of confusion. What separates regular, unleaded gas from the medium-tier and premium options is a matter of octane level.
Octane refers to the amount of oxygen in gasoline. Manufacturers add oxygen to their fuel as a way of preventing it from prematurely igniting—an occurrence known as “knocking.” The higher the octane level, the higher the gasoline’s grade. So while regular gasoline has an octane of 87, mid-grade fuel has an octane between 88 and 90, and premium gas has an octane between 91 and 94.
When knocking occurs, you might hear a drum-like sound coming from your engine upon ignition. Consumer Reports notes that frequent knocking could result in damage to the engine over time.
Still, this shouldn’t be a huge concern unless you regularly hear knocking. Most of the time, you can refer to your car’s user manual to determine which kind of fuel to use. If your manual is not available, Consumer Reports says that the majority of cars take regular unleaded gas. Using plus or premium-grade fuel, meanwhile, doesn’t typically affect your engine’s performance or resistance to general wear.
Will Cheap Gas Hurt My Car?
Even if you’re comfortable using regular-grade gas, you might be wondering whether it’s worth driving to the pricier gas station. The truth? It doesn’t make much of a difference.
“Because of the advances in engine technology,” Edmund’s explains, “a car’s onboard computer is able to adjust for the inevitable variations in fuel, so most drivers won’t notice a drop off in performance between different brands of fuel, from the most additive-rich gas sold by the major brands to the bare-bones stuff at your corner quickie mart.”
Even Steve Mazor, chief automotive engineer at Automobile Club of Southern California, gives this advice for seeking car fuel: “Buy the cheapest gas that is closest to you.”
Of course, if you want the peace of mind that your car won’t begin knocking, you can always opt-up a fuel level. But if you’re looking to save money, you’re safe sticking to the regular stuff.