U.S. driv­ers waste $2.1 bil­lion an­nu­ally on pre­mium gas, AAA re­ports

The Calvert Recorder - Southern Maryland Automotive Trends - - News -

Ac­cord­ing to new AAA re­search, Amer­i­can driv­ers wasted more than $2.1 bil­lion dol­lars in the last year by us­ing pre­mium-grade gaso­line in ve­hi­cles de­signed to run on reg­u­lar fuel.

With 16.5 mil­lion U.S. driv­ers hav­ing used pre­mium fuel de­spite the ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer’s rec­om­men­da­tion in the last 12 months, AAA con­ducted a com­pre­hen­sive fuel eval­u­a­tion to de­ter­mine what, if any, ben­e­fit the prac­tice of­fers to con­sumers. Af­ter us­ing in­dus­try-stan­dard test pro­to­cols de­signed to eval­u­ate ve­hi­cle per­for­mance, fuel econ­omy and emis­sions, AAA found no ben­e­fit to us­ing pre­mium gaso­line in a ve­hi­cle that only re­quires reg­u­lar-grade fuel.

“Driv­ers see the ‘ pre­mium’ name at the pump and may as­sume the fuel is bet­ter for their ve­hi­cle,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s man­ag­ing direc­tor of Au­to­mo­tive En­gi­neer­ing and Re­pair. “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.”

In part­ner­ship with the Au­to­mo­bile Club of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s Au­to­mo­tive Re­search Cen­ter, AAA tested 87-oc­tane (reg­u­lar) and 93-oc­tane (pre­mium) gaso­line in ve­hi­cles equipped with a V-8, V-6 or I4 en­gine de­signed to op­er­ate on reg­u­lar-grade fuel. To eval­u­ate the ef­fects of us­ing a higher-oc­tane fuel when it’s not re­quired by the man­u­fac­turer, each ve­hi­cle was tested on a dy­namome­ter, which is es­sen­tially a tread­mill for cars that is de­signed to mea­sure horse­power, fuel econ­omy and tailpipe emis­sions when us­ing both fuel types and vari- ety of driv­ing con­di­tions. The lab­o­ra­tory test­ing found no sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in any tested cat­e­gory, in­di­cat­ing the prac­tice of us­ing pre­mium gaso­line when it’s not re­quired for the ve­hi­cle of­fers no ad­van­tage.

“AAA’s tests re­veal that there is no ben­e­fit to us­ing pre­mium gaso­line in a ve­hi­cle that re­quires reg­u­lar fuel,” said Me­gan McK­er­nan, man­ager of the Au­to­mo­bile Club of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s Au­to­mo­tive Re­search Cen­ter. “Pre­mium gaso­line is specif­i­cally for­mu­lated to be com­pat­i­ble with spe­cific types of en­gine de­signs and most ve­hi­cles can­not take ad­van­tage of the higher oc­tane rat­ing.”

To un­der­stand the mag­ni­tude of the is­sue, AAA sur­veyed U.S. driv­ers to un­der­stand what type of fuel their ve­hi­cles re­quire and the fre­quency at which they upgrade to pre­mium fuel. Re­sults re­veal:

• Seventy per­cent of U.S. driv­ers cur­rently own a ve­hi­cle that re­quires reg­u­lar gaso­line, while 16 per­cent drive ve­hi­cles that re­quire pre­mium fuel. The re­main­ing 14 per­cent own a ve­hi­cle that re­quires mid-grade gaso­line (10 per­cent) or uses an al­ter­na­tive en­ergy source (4 per­cent).

• In the last 12 months, 16.5 mil­lion U.S. driv­ers un­nec­es­sar­ily used pre­mium-grade gaso­line in their ve­hi­cle at least once. On av­er­age, those that up­graded to pre­mium gaso­line did so at least once per month.

• In the last 12 months, U.S. driv­ers un­nec­es­sar­ily used pre­mium gaso­line in their ve­hi­cle more than 270 mil­lion times.

“When it comes to gaso­line, ‘pre­mium’ does not mean ‘bet­ter’ if your ve­hi­cle doesn’t re­quire it,” con­tin­ued Nielsen. “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.”

Pre­vi­ous AAA re­search found that fuel qual­ity varies sig­nif­i­cantly among gaso­line re­tail­ers and that us­ing a gaso­line that meets TOP TIER stan­dards can re­sult in 19 times fewer en­gine de­posits, in­crease ve­hi­cle per­for­mance and im­prove fuel econ­omy. To pro­tect ve­hi­cle in­vest­ments, AAA urges driv­ers to use the ap­pro­pri­ate gaso­line as de­ter­mined by their car’s man­u­fac­turer (reg­u­lar or pre­mium) that meets TOP TIER stan­dards for en­gine clean­li­ness and per­for­mance.

To cal­cu­late the to­tal an­nual cost of us­ing pre­mium gaso­line when not re­quired by the ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­turer, AAA con­ducted a com­pre­hen­sive anal­y­sis that in­cluded a U.S. con­sumer sur­vey, Fed­eral High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion data, per-gal­lon costs of pre­mium gaso­line and reg­u­lar gaso­line and the av­er­age num­ber of fill-ups an­nu­ally. All test­ing was con­ducted at the Au­to­mo­tive Club of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s Au­to­mo­tive Re­search Cen­ter in Los An­ge­les, Cal­i­for­nia, us­ing an in­dus­try-stan­dard chas­sis dy­namome­ter, emis­sions test equip­ment and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency driv­ing cy­cles. All gaso­line used for test­ing was EPA Tier III cer­ti­fi­ca­tion fuel with ten per­cent ethanol content in both reg­u­lar and pre­mium grades. Cer­ti­fied test fuel was used to re­move vari­abil­ity in fuel qual­ity and ad­di­tives. For this study, AAA did not eval­u­ate the ef­fects of us­ing reg­u­lar fuel in an en­gine that re­quires pre­mium gaso­line.


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