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Don’t Be Fueled: Premium Not Always Worth the Price

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

empty fuel gauge

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (Dec. 12, 2017) - According to new research from AAA, premium gasoline offers some benefit to select vehicles, but it is becoming increasingly expensive for drivers. In recent years, the price gap between premium and regular-grade gasoline has risen from a historically steady 10 percent to as much as 25 percent or more per gallon. AAA’s recent research indicates that some vehicles – those that recommend, but do not require premium gasoline – may see increased fuel economy and performance under certain driving conditions when using the higher-octane gasoline. As a result, AAA recommends drivers weigh the potential benefits against the cost of using premium gasoline, if their vehicle does not require it. Those seeking the maximum capabilities of their performance-focused or utility vehicle may see some benefit from using premium gasoline, particularly over the long haul.

AAA’s recommendations:

  • Always follow the vehicle owner’s manual to determine which type of gasoline is recommended and/or required for your vehicle. Vehicles that require premium-grade gasoline should consider their driving habits, the potential benefits and the costs associated with using higher octane fuel.


  • Drivers of vehicles that recommend, but do not require, premium-grade gasoline should consider their driving habits, the potential benefits and the costs associated with using higher octane fuel.


  • If your engine makes a “pinging” or “knocking” sound when using regular fuel, especially in a vehicle that recommends premium fuel, a higher octane gasoline may resolve the issue, but it’s a good idea to have the vehicle checked by a reputable repair shop.


  • Drivers who choose to use premium fuel should shop around for the best price, as it varies significantly between gas stations in any given city. The AAA Mobile app can help drivers identify the least expensive premium-grade gasoline in their area.


  • Drivers looking for a higher quality fuel should select a TOP TIER™ gasoline. Previous AAA research found that gasoline meeting TOP TIER™ standards resulted in 19 times fewer engine deposits than non- TOP TIER™  fuel.

Last year, nearly 1.5 million new vehicles sold in the United States recommend, but do not require, premium gasoline. The trend toward recommending or requiring higher-octane fuel continues to rise as manufacturers work toward meeting stringent CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards. However, a vehicle that requires the more expensive premium gasoline may dissuade a car buyer, leaving automakers to balance higher performance with what consumers desire. Rising prices for premium gasoline, coupled with great variation in prices across the country, compounds this issue. AAA urges drivers who use premium gasoline to shop around for the best price, as it could vary dramatically between gas stations in any given city. The AAA Mobile app, available for iPhone, iPad and Android, can help drivers identify the least expensive premium gasoline near them.

“The gap between premium and regular gas has been steadily rising since 2009, with the most dramatic increase occurring in the last two years,” said Georjeane Blumling, vice president of Public Affairs for AAA Tidewater Virginia. “Fewer than five years ago, only a 10 percent gap existed between premium and regular. Today, that spread has doubled with premium gasoline costing almost 50 cents more per gallon and is still climbing despite the fact that consumer demand for premium isn’t necessarily increasing.”

For those vehicles that do not recommend or require premium gasoline, AAA suggests drivers opt for the lower priced, regular fuel. In a study released last year, AAA found that consumers wasted nearly $2.1 billion dollars fueling these vehicles with higher-octane gasoline. However, drivers of vehicles that require premium gasoline should always use it. Additionally, any vehicle that makes a “pinging” or “knocking” sound while using regular gasoline should be evaluated by a repair facility and likely switched to a higher-octane fuel.  Drivers seeking a higher quality fuel for their vehicle should consider using one that meets Top Tier standards, as previous AAA research found it to keep engines up to 19 times cleaner.

The full report, fact sheet and other information regarding this study can be found on the AAA NewsRoom.


As part of North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA Tidewater Virginia provides its more than 330,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding AAA Tidewater Virginia has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter at or Facebook at

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AAA Tidewater Virginia is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the Tidewater Virginia region (All Hampton Roads cities, including Norfolk, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg; Virginia's Eastern Shore; as well as the following counties: Greensville, Surry, Brunswick, Isle of Wight, Gloucester, Lancaster, Middlesex, Richmond County, Southampton, Sussex, Mecklenburg, James City County, York, Lunenburg, Essex, King & Queen, Mathews, Northumberland, and Westmoreland).