Automotive Research

AAA tests show premium fuel benefits some vehicles, but comes at a high cost

New research from AAA concluded that premium gas can benefit select vehicles that recommend but do not require it.

While past AAA research has shown no benefit in using premium gas for a vehicle design to operate on regular fuel, new testing indicates that vehicles that are recommended but not required to use premium gasoline may see increased fuel economy and performance when using premium gas.

Fuel pump

What did the study discover? 

AAA tested a variety of vehicles that recommend, but do not require premium gasoline. Although these vehicles are unlikely to show benefit from using premium gasoline during typical city or highway driving, a combination of laboratory and on-road tests were performed to simulate extreme driving scenarios such as towing, hauling cargo, and aggressive acceleration. 

When using premium fuel in these vehicles under these more demanding conditions, AAA tests found:

  • Fuel economy for test vehicles averaged a 2.7% improvement 
  • Horsepower for test vehicles averaged an increase of 1.4%

The rising standards and costs of premium fuel

Nearly 1.5 million new vehicles sold last year in the United States had recommendations to use premium gasoline. The trend toward recommending or requiring higher-octane fuel continues to rise as manufacturers work toward meeting stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. 

Further, the price gap between premium and regular gas more than doubled in recent years. According to national averages, the price difference between regular and premium gasoline is approximately 50 cents per gallon.

Which fuel should you use

Is premium fuel worth it?

In the premium fuel study released in 2016, AAA found that consumers unnecessarily wasted nearly $2.1 billion dollars buying higher-octane gasoline. However, drivers of vehicles that require premium gasoline should always use it. For those vehicles that do not recommend or require premium gasoline, AAA suggests drivers opt for the lower-priced regular fuel.

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