Have you ever pulled up to a gas station, only to be faced with a choice between regular, mid-grade, and premium gas? If you’re like most drivers, you’ve probably wondered what premium gas does, and whether it’s worth the premium price tag that comes with it. Premium gas is often associated with higher performance, but not every car requires premium gas. Learn how premium gas works, if your car requires it, and how to make an informed decision when choosing the right fuel.

What Makes Premium Gas Premium?

Premium gas, also known as premium fuel, is a type of gasoline that has a higher-octane rating than regular or mid-grade fuel. The octane rating is a measure of the fuel’s ability to resist knocking or pinging during combustion—the process that releases energy from a mixture of the engine’s fuel and air. Knocking happens when the air and fuel mixture in the engine’s cylinders combusts prematurely, causing a rattling or pinging sound. This can lead to engine damage and lower your car’s performance.

Since premium fuel has the highest octane rating out of any fuel, it’s the least likely to spontaneously combust and cause knocking or pinging.

How the Octane Rating Works

The octane rating of a fuel is usually displayed on the pump as an average of two different measurement methods: Research Octane Number (RON) and Motor Octane Number (MON). In simple terms, the higher the octane rating, the more resistant the fuel is to knocking. Premium gas typically has an octane rating of 91 or higher, while regular gas usually falls between a rating of 87 and 90.

What Does Premium Gas Do?

Depending on the car and the situation, premium gas can offer several benefits, including:

Improved Performance

If you drive a high-performance or sports car, your engine might require premium gas to reach its full potential. In this case, using premium fuel can improve acceleration, responsiveness, and overall performance.

Reduced Engine Knocking

Engines that require or benefit from premium gas often have features that make them more prone to knocking with lower-octane fuels. Premium gas’s higher-octane rating helps prevent knocking, thanks to its well-balanced and stable composition.

Better Fuel Economy

In some cases, using premium gas can lead to slight improvements in fuel economy. While the difference may not be significant for all vehicles, cars designed for premium fuel may deliver improved miles per gallon (MPG) and lower emissions while using it.

Should You Use Premium Gas?

While premium gas can have many benefits, whether you need it depends on your vehicle’s requirements and your driving habits.

Check Your Owner’s Manual

The best way to determine if your car requires premium gas is by checking your owner’s manual to see which fuel is recommended for your make and model. While some luxury or high-performance cars can require premium fuel for better performance, the average vehicle runs perfectly fine on regular gasoline. Your owner’s manual will clear up any confusion about which is best for you.

Look at Your Driving Habits

If your car doesn’t explicitly require premium gas, but you’re wondering if it could still benefit from it, consider your driving habits. If you mostly drive in a city at lower speeds, you may not notice a significant difference in performance or fuel economy with premium gas. However, if you frequently engage in highway driving or have a high-performance vehicle, it might be worth trying premium gas to see if you notice an improvement.

Do Cars Need Premium Gas?

In general, most cars on the road don’t need premium gas. Most vehicles are designed to run efficiently on regular unleaded gasoline, which is less expensive than premium fuel. Using premium gas when your car doesn’t need it may not provide any substantial benefits, and it will cost you more at the pump.

While you’re making decisions that can affect your car and your financial health, don’t forget about other important aspects that come with being a responsible driver, such as car insurance. If your car needs repairs from a collision or another covered event, car insurance from The General can protect you against financial losses. Get a car insurance quote in under two minutes or read more on The General insurance blog.