Premium fuel: Good investment or a waste of money?

A car being refueled

Is premium fuel worth the hype?

It’s 2017 and there are a lot of things to keep up, most of which require money. From the monthly Netflix payment to getting that coffee from Starbucks on your commute every morning. But there’s a new trend that’s popped up in the motor industry and it’s called premium fuel. You’ve probably seen it when you’re filling up your tank at the local petrol station. (It’s essentially the more expensive version of the fuel you’re putting your car.) People are buying into this trend and it’s not hard to see why with its claims that it can offer better fuel economy and keep your engine clean. But is it really worth the hype?

What is the difference?

So, what is the difference between standard fuel and premium fuel? There are two main elements to this – the first one being the additive used in the premium fuel. These extra components are said to reduce friction and keep important parts of the engine clean. These then create a more efficient performance overall. The second part of what makes premium fuel different is the rating it has. The official rating for unleaded fuel is known as the octane rating. The rating shows how well the fuel resists pressure and premature ignition as it is compressed by the piston. And the official rating for diesel fuel is referred to as cetane – which can measure how quickly diesel fuel ignites under pressure.

Premium fuel for which vehicles?

Knowing which vehicles need premium fuel is fairly easy – it’s mostly petrol engines with a high compression ratio. This usually applies to engines fitted to high-performance vehicles which require premium unleaded fuel. If you’re unsure about whether your vehicle needs premium fuel or not you can check easily enough. Just look inside the fuel filler flap and read the stick that names the type of fuel (unleaded) – and the minimum octane (RON) needed. Standard fuel is about 95 RON and premium fuel is between 97 and 100 RON. If you can’t locate the sticker you can either refer to your vehicle’s handbook or contact the car manufacturer directly. The interesting part of this is that no car manufacturers have said that diesel engines need premium diesel fuels to run efficiently. So, if you own a diesel vehicle it’s entirely up to you on whether you make the investment in premium fuel.

Is it worth the money?

In a study from September, the cost of a litre of standard petrol was £1.19 and premium petrol fuel was £1.29. If you were driving a Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI you’d be paying an extra fiver every time you filled up your tank. So, over 10,000 miles of driving you’d spend an extra £86 if you were using premium petrol fuel. When looking at the average price of a litre of standard diesel fuel in the UK it came to £1.20. While the premium diesel fuel came in at £1.33 per litre. So, if you had the humble Ford Focus 1.5 TDCi diesel which is a family favourite in the UK – you’d be spending nearly £6.90 more if you topped it up with premium fuel. And over a period of 10,000 miles, you’d be spending an extra £70.

So, the results really do speak for themselves! It’s generally a lot cheaper to go with standard fuel whether it’s petrol or diesel. And we’ve concluded that premium fuels are a waste of money unless your vehicle needs it to run! The reason for this is due to the fact that there’s no proven research that premium fuel can genuinely make a positive impact on the health of your vehicle.

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