• Jun 19th 2008 at 4:29PM
  • 82
The Detroit Free Press is reporting that the national average for premium gas is now $4.48 a gallon, some 40 cents more than regular, and that drivers are just refusing to buy it.
Truth be told, most people who've been buying premium probably don't need it at all, but even among those whose engines specify 91 or higher, demand is way down. The Freep says it's actually at its lowest level since 1984. The higher-octane fuel accounted for 16% of gas sales at the height of its demand in 1997. Last month it was half that at 8%. Demand for premium is so low that in some areas it takes gas stations 3 or 4 weeks to sell out a shipment of premium compared to just a couple of days for regular.

Experts say that demand is dropping for a number of reasons. People are switching from luxury and performance models to more efficient cars that only require regular. Many owners of premium-only vehicles are just driving less. And some people who choose to buy premium despite their cars and trucks only requiring regular are just wising up. When looking at the situation, Consumer Reports has gone so far as to say that "many cars that are supposed to only use premium perform just as well with regular." So keep those extra bucks in your pocket and go with the 87 for now. Just don't yell at us if something starts knocking underhood.

NOTE: This picture was taken on March 3, 2007... in Nevada.

[Source: Detroit Free Press]


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  • 82 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      My car (Mazda3 1.6 Activematic, European model, 107 hp) doesn't require premium, but I put it in occasionally.
      Normally, I feed it only with Shell V-Power 95 (that's regular in Europe, about 91 in US ratings). The premium Shell V-Power Racing is a whooping 100 octane fuel 95-96 US).

      With 100 premium the car comes to life, it works better and what's more important, fuel consumption drops by 10-15 percent. No overheating whatsoever.

      Using regular in Premium rated engine will inevitably result in lower power output, increase fuel consumption and ultimately WILL contribute to long term engine damage.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Oscar Jackson did a regular vs premium test for cars that don't require premium, to see if you could get your costs back.
      he found that with the old (at the time current) b20 honda CRV, he could advance the timing to like 16 degrees and run 92 octane and save money. maybe not much money at the time, but gas was 1.35 or so a gallon then. i think the end result was a savings of something like 1 tank of gas a year.
      many cars with knock sensors can advance and retard timing based on knock, some cars require reg and can advance, while others may require premium but can retard. it really varies based on manufacturer and model.

      what i know is it doesn't hurt to run a higher grade fuel.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I wonder who does consumer reports research, obviously someone who
      couldn't tell the difference between an 9:1 compression to an 12:1.
      If you car require 91 the engine compression is high and require a
      higher octane fuel to prevent early detonation of the piston.
      Consumer reports learn the facts.
      • 7 Years Ago
      No surprise.
      • 7 Years Ago
      "Takes regular gas" was one of the top 2 or 3 criteria I had the last time I went shopping for a new car. My last car specified premium and wouldn't run well on regular. Requiring premium is what keeps me from seriously considering nice cars like Acura, VW, Saab, etc...
        • 7 Years Ago
        Where I live, premium is usually around 20 cents more than regular. I usually fill up with about 14 gallons at a stop, and it usually takes 2 weeks before I fill up.

        So the math looks like this:
        .20 x 14 = $2.80 more per fill up. (That $2.80 is about 4% of the cost of filling up.)
        52 weeks in a year / 2 = 26
        26 fill-ups x $2.80 = $72.80 more than my "regular unleaded" friends.

        $72 more a year...Yeah, I think I can live with that.

        To put this in perspective, a full ink refill on my gf's HP inkjet costs $50 PER REFILL.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Premium may cost more, but an engine designed to run on it also extracts more energy from the same volume compared to regular unleaded. More energy = less fuel used to travel the same distance.

        Really, you are not paying that much more per mile traveled.
      • 7 Years Ago
      All the scaredy cats screaming about the perils of using regular when premium is specified are off-base for late model cars (with some exceptions like super high performance and supercharged models). What actually happens when you use regular is that your engine's computer readjusts timing to that octane, AND YOU GET AT LEAST SLIGHTLY LESS HP AND MPG for your trouble.

      It does not harm any but exotic engines, but why do it? The little you save in gasoline cost you will give up with the slightly lower miles per gallon. You save nothing, you lose a couple horsepower, so where is the payoff for moving down a grade?
      • 7 Years Ago
      of course, another common delusion from our 'experts' at Consumer Reports, "the small timer's bible".

      I presently own a Cadillac deVille (1999), and have had over 50 deVilles when I owned a livery business. cumulatively, those 50 cars covered over 15 million miles (300,000 milesX50). we kept meticulous records of every tank of fuel, so I can speak from personal experience.

      Northstar engines required premium fuel, and that's what they received. we had heard these ridiculous stories that "regular worked just fine"; it doesn't.

      first off, remove between 30-40 horsepower, as the computer detunes the engine to run on the substandard fuel. it feels like you're pulling a trailer behind the car when using regular. not my opinion about the loss of horsepower, but from one of the GM engineers who developed the Northstar.

      second, remove 4-6 miles per gallon (or more) from the fuel economy when using regular. our cumulative average MPG was 22.5 with premium, and 16.2 with regular.

      when this starts saving money, and not ruining the car, let me know.

      AZMike
      • 7 Years Ago
      I put $40 dollars of premium fuel in my car this morning and I only got 8 gallons. $4.75 here in southern california.

      My car runs like a dog on 87. The manual tells me to run 91 anyway.

      1990 E34 535i (gas slut)
      • 7 Years Ago
      Because it was cheaper I was filling up with diesel in my Honda Civic but now that diesel is higher I've switched back to regular unleaded.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I keep putting 91 or 93 in my turbocharged car...

      But, then again, I know WHY the chemistry and physics of the engine require it to prevent damage from pre-detonation.

      And here, the prices aren't that drastically more. 87 is ~3.95, Ethanol blend is tax-incentivized, so is cheaper, at ~3.89, and then premium is just over $4.05-4.09. At least today. It could change tomorrow.

      But I also know enough about physics and chemistry to know why putting corn foodstuffs into your gas-tank and burning it at more than 100 times the rate that most people and livestock EAT corn, all while not saving any over-all energy at all, and possibly even costing some, is not a good idea at all.

      Have fun with ethanol with all of the Iowa corn fields that under water out here... :D Good luck buying tortilla chips, or anything with high-fructose corn syrup in it... Let alone the third world countries that rely on US-grown food-stuffs to be able to afford to eat.

      Can we all say stag-flation? I knew we could.
        • 7 Years Ago
        A lot of people bring this point up, but I think it's a bit of a myth. Correct me if I'm wrong, but people only eat the corn kernels. The processes used to create the fuel just need plant matter... not corn kernels specifically. The ethanol is made from the byproducts (stalks, silk, cobs) which are generally used as animal feed.

        There should be no impact at all on food supply.

        Can anyone add to this?

          • 7 Years Ago
          Fuel ethanol is made from the kernels of field corn. The stalks, cobs, husks, etc. get shredded in the combine and may be baled up for feed or bedding, or just left in the field (which helps maintain soil moisture and nutrients.) The remnants of the ethanol producing process is called distiller's grain and is used for animal feed, minus the starches and sugars that were converted to ethanol. Per the Nat'l Corn Growers Association 13% of last year's corn crop went to ethanol, 2.3 billion bushels.
          • 7 Years Ago
          the only thing I could add is that if what you say is true (I don't know) and the fuel is only made from what would be livestock food, than I am sure the cost of meat and dairy will rise - not good.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Stalks, silk, and cobbs are not high in sugar or starch content, they are merely plant matter, and not particularly energy-storage bio-mass.

        The kernels are where the starch is stored to feed energy to plant germination when the kernels are re-planted as seed.

        That starch gets converted to sugar, then to alcohol.

        And there already HAS been a huge impact on the food supply, grocery prices are already up, due to the volume of corn going into ethanol production, and the higher price of a bushel of corn that results from that.

        Meat and milk are already high, and livestock producers are slaughtering cattle that they can't afford to feed. Meat prices are slumping just a bit due to that, but once the herds are thinned, steaks are going to be RARE, and I don't mean the color and temperature. The gallon price of milk is also going up due to the cost of feeding a dairy herd.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I agree, ethanol is definitely not the way.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I do love me some Corn Nuts. Mmm mmm mmm good.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Stagflation? No, BIG stagflation.
        http://www.theinternationalforecaster.com/International_Forecaster_Weekly/The_Formula_For_Hyperstagflation

        ethanol stinks, remove the 10% mandate. There are no more carburetors.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have used premium gas in all my vehicles for the last 20 years - whether they needed it or not. I have never had a fuel system related problem in several hundred thousand miles of driving.

      Premium gas also stores longer. 20 years ago I used to ride small 250 motorcycles for work during the summer. We had a fleet of about 10 motorcycles. Everyone had an assigned motorcycle. I would put premium in the one assigned to me. Everyone else would use the cheap gas provided by the company. My motorcycle was the only one that would start and run after sitting idle during the off season. All others needed the carbs drained and cleaned first.

      I use premium in my lawn tractor and mower. They always start after sitting idle for months during the off season.

      I ran my generator the other day. The premium gas that was in the tank was 2+ years old. It started and ran just fine.

      I currently have a Supercharged Frontier and a Motorcycle as my daily commute vehicles. I have no plans to run anything other than premium in them.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It's ridiculous... I didn't think it would be that bad but it is. I just bought a brand new Mini Cooper not some 4 months ago and it's averaging about 25 mpg in the city if I'm lucky. That's much lower than I ever expected! If I put regular in, it drops to about 23 mpg so I don't know what to do... whenever I can take the freeway I do, even here in LA.
        • 7 Years Ago
        S? Manual? Auto? I have a Cooper S (as stated) and I beat the tar out of that car, and still bang out 30mpg regularly.
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