8 things to know about Top Tier detergent gasoline

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A new study from AAA found that detergent additives really do make a difference in the quality of gas that you buy.

AAA now says drivers should buy Top Tier fuel, but what exactly is that? If you’ve always believed that all gas is the same, read on to find out why the auto club says not all gas is created equal.

Read more: Buying gas from a station on this list is better for your car

What you need to know about Top Tier detergent gasoline

What is Top Tier gas?

Top Tier is a performance standard for gasoline, backed by major automakers. Since the 1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency has required a minimum level of detergent for all gas sold in the United States. But some automakers say the EPA standards are not good enough. To be considered Top Tier, the gasoline must have a higher concentration of detergent added to it.

These automakers all recommend Top Tier gas:

  • BMW
  • General Motors
  • Fiat Chrysler
  • Honda
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Audi

What are the benefits?

When you fill up with Top Tier gas, you’re helping to keep your engine cleaner, according to the independent laboratory testing from AAA. For the first time ever, the auto group recently studied the difference between Top Tier gas and non-Top Tier gas. AAA says it was “surprised” to find that engines operated on a Top Tier gasoline averaged 19 times fewer intake valve deposits compared to non-Top Tier gasoline.

Why are carbon deposits harmful?

Over time, those engine deposits can cause problems for your car. AAA says if you use gas without an enhanced additive package for a long time, it can lead to a 2% to 4% reduction in fuel economy, increased emissions and negatively impact the driving experience.

8 things to know about Top Tier detergent gasoline

Following AAA’s study, Consumer Reports said this in a blog post:


‘Given the technological trend toward more sophisticated engines, we think the EPA should consider raising the minimum detergent standards to ensure all drivers benefit from the type of performance and longevity promised by Top Tier fuels.’

But isn’t all gas the same?

Within any given market, base gasoline is the same across most brands, AAA tells Clark.com. But the difference is the detergent packages added to gasoline tanker trucks. AAA says some brands use the minimum level of detergent additives required by the EPA, others add proprietary formulations of additives and others use detergent packages to meet Top Tier performance standards.

How is this different from premium gas?

8 things to know about Top Tier detergent gasoline

When you drive up to the gas pump, you’re used to seeing octane ratings for regular, mid-grade and premium gas. That’s not the same as Top Tier. When a gas station says it sells Top Tier fuel, it must add the detergent package to all grades of gasoline, even the cheap stuff. Check your owner’s manual to see which octane fuel you should use in your car.

How much does Top Tier gas cost?

The AAA study recommends that drivers pay more for Top Tier gas, but it’s not a significant price increase. The auto group says it costs an average of three cents more per gallon. So if you’re filling up a small car with 12 gallons of gas, that’s an additional 36 cents on average to keep your car running at its best.

Where can I buy it?

About a third of gas stations currently meet the Top Tier fuel standards, including retailers known for inexpensive gas! Places that sell Top Tier gasoline will often display a logo to let customers know, but we also have a list of gas stations that sell it.

8 things to know about Top Tier detergent gasoline

If I haven’t been using Top Tier, is it too late?

According to the AAA study, it’s not too late to make the switch. Researchers say carbon deposits can be reduced or removed by changing to a gas that meets Top Tier standards.

Clark’s Takeaway:

“The most important thing about the report is that many of the nation’s giants of gas discounting sell Top Tier gasoline, including Costco and QuikTrip. There are many who decide to buy gas only at major oil company stations believing their gas to be superior. However, you can have what the study finds is the best gas at the lowest prices.’

Read more: Why you should never ‘top off’ your gas tank

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