Most luxury and high performance cars advise the use of premium fuel. But the higher price at the pump can make some drivers wonder, “Do I have to use it?”
So, can you get away with topping off with regular? I recommend the use of premium in these three key situations.
When Your Car Requires It
Some cars just won’t run on unleaded. Edmunds has created lists of Premium Recommended and Premium Required vehicles. If your car is on the “required” list, you should be pumping premium. Filling up with regular unleaded might damage your engine.
If your owner’s manual simply recommends premiums, most modern engines can still run on regular unleaded. But, if you want to achieve top performance (that extra second faster from 0-60 mph), premium is the way to go.
In Extreme Heat or Cold
In extreme temperatures, premium fuel can help increase performance and fuel efficiency (more MPG). High or low temps can make any vehicle work harder than usual, so to be safe, we recommend going with premium.
At High Altitudes
We won’t go into the science behind compression ratios and air-fuel mixtures, but I would advise to use premium fuel at higher altitudes. This may seem counter-intuitive, since gas stations offer lower octane fuels at higher altitudes (again, air-fuel and compression reasons behinds this).
Using lower octane fuel at higher altitudes be harmful to your engine. For the minimal added cost of higher octane fuel, it just isn’t worth the risk.
Bonus: Using Premium Fuel to Clean Your Engine
In years past, drivers would rotate in a tank of premium to clean their engines. Premium fuel contained additives and detergents to reduce carbon buildup. If you are one of these drivers, there’s no need to continue this practice.
These days, government regulations focused on reducing emissions means all fuel grades have these additives.