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Is Premium Petrol Better Than Regular?

Fuel bowsers

You may have heard claims that using premium petrol will do amazing things to your car, like increase its power, improve mileage, protect the engine, save the earth and even help you grow wings. Don't be fooled.

Despite its premium price, premium unleaded petrol doesn't actually provide any more power than regular petrol, and is only a better fuel when placed in an engine specifically designed to run on it.

This means that you should only ever shell out the extra cash for premium fuel if your car manufacturer advises that it is an absolute requirement.

If you're unsure about whether or not premium fuel is absolutely necessary for your car, consult Edmunds lists "premium recommended" and "premium required" for vehicles from 2012-2019. Unless your car is on the "premium required" list, you're safe to use regular old fuel (and safe to switch over to it if you have been spoiling your car with premium).

Does it really improve performance?
Despite the marketing claims you may have heard on the radio, premium fuel won't so much improve your car's performance as it will prevent your car from performance loss if, and only if, your car is designed to run on it. As Edmunds explains,

"Compared to premium petrol, lower-octane fuels don't allow the engine to run as much ignition advance during situations calling for rapid acceleration. More ignition advance allows the engine to make more power, and accelerate more quickly, during these conditions. Since the engine doesn't make quite as much power with lower-octane fuels, this translates into slower acceleration in cars for which premium fuel is recommended. The performance loss is especially noticeable in turbocharged petrol engines, which have become increasingly popular in recent years.

The performance loss, however, is something you will only notice if you have a heavy foot and accelerate rapidly from a dead stop or while changing lanes at highway speeds. But if you accelerate moderately, the loss of power is barely noticeable, regardless of whether you use premium petrol or regular-grade fuel." 

So, there you have it. Premium prices don't always mean premium results. To find out more, check out what our partners at Car Advice have to say about the subject here.