U.S. motorists wasted billions on premium gasoline last year: AAA

Tue Sep 20, 2016 5:30am EDT
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By Jarrett Renshaw

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumers wasted billions of dollars last year filling their cars with costly premium-grade gasoline for no tangible benefit, according to a study by the country's leading motorist advocacy group.

The report by Heathrow, Florida-based AAA comes as low pump prices and a growing economy enticed U.S. motorists to buy more premium-grade gasoline in June than in any month since 2003, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

While an overwhelming majority of cars on U.S. roadways are designed to consume regular gasoline, the study found that motorists still use premium-grade in the hopes of achieving more horsepower and better fuel economy. As a result, U.S. drivers spent an estimated $2.1 billion extra by using premium gasoline in vehicles designed for regular fuel.

Premium provides little or no benefit to cars designed to run on lower octane, regular gasoline, the study said.

“Drivers see the ‘premium’ name at the pump and may assume the fuel is better for their vehicle,” John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair, said in a statement.

“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.”

What distinguishes premium from other grades is its increased ability - expressed in octane - to resist premature detonation, or knocking, as it is compressed in the engine before ignition.

Premium gas is used in high-compression engines so it is often associated with high-performance sportscars or luxury vehicles. Last week, a gallon of premium gasoline was selling on average 48 cents higher than regular gasoline, among the widest spreads since 1994, EIA data shows.   Continued...

A car is filled with gasoline at a gas station pump in Carlsbad, California August 4, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake