AAA: Premium gas not worth the money for most vehicles

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AAA: Premium gas not worth the money for most vehicles
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Smack dab in the middle of the holiday traveling season, AAA has just delivered news that is most likely a shock to the (fuel) system and boost to the wallet. Premium gasoline, that exclusive liquid reserved for only the choicest drivers and vehicles, may be a big waste of money for most drivers, the national autoclub says.

After a comprehensive study over the past couple years, AAA says that by using premium, engine performance may be improved “in certain conditions,” but overall, motorists were basically giving their money away buying the high-priced petrol instead of regular.

The findings fly (drive) in the face of the common-held belief, especially held by owners of luxury vehicles, that if you put premium into your tank, it will perform at an optimal level.

“AAA’s testing reveals that drivers could see modest gains in fuel economy and performance when opting for premium gasoline in vehicles that recommend, but do not require, the higher-octane fuel,” Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, said in a statement. “Those seeking the maximum capabilities of their performance-focused or utility vehicle may see some benefit from using premium gasoline, particularly over the long haul.”

So even if the manufacturer recommends it, premium gas may not be worth it, given the premium price, AAA researchers have concluded.

Save money by skipping the premium gas, AAA says

In 2015, drivers wasted $2.1 billion by paying for premium fuel when their vehicles were designed to operate on regular, according to the AAA. When documenting those findings, AAA then warned drivers what insistence on buying premium was doing to their wallets. “Drivers see the ‘premium’ name at the pump and may assume the fuel is better for their vehicle,” John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair, said in a news release. “AAA cautions drivers that premium gasoline is higher octane, not higher quality, and urges drivers to follow the owner’s manual recommendations for their vehicle’s fuel.”

Of course, there are some vehicles that explicitly say “premium fuel only,” which is a good thing to abide by if you don’t want your engine to knock when you drive. But premium fuel, which is typically about 25% more expensive than regular gas, may not offer enough benefits when you consider what you’re paying for it.

Some key takeaways from the study:

  • “Fuel economy for test vehicles averaged a 2.7% improvement. Individual vehicle test result averages ranged from a decrease of 1% (2016 Audi A3) to an improvement of 7.1% (2016 Cadillac Escalade),” the agency said.
  • Horsepower for test vehicles averaged an increase of 1.4%,” AAA said. “Individual vehicle test result averages ranged from a decrease of 0.3% (2016 Jeep Renegade) to an improvement of 3.2% (2017 Ford Mustang).”
  • “The modest fuel economy improvements found in AAA tests do not offset the higher cost of premium gasoline.”

“When it comes to gasoline, ‘premium’ does not mean ‘better’ if your vehicle doesn’t require it,” Nielsen, said of the AAA study. “Drivers looking to upgrade to a higher quality fuel for their vehicle should save their money and select a TOP TIER™ gasoline, not a higher-octane one.”

RELATED: 5 ways to save money on that holiday road trip

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