Why Is Premium Gas Better?

Last Updated on March 26, 2023 by Paul S.

You pull up to the gas pump and see regular/unleaded, mid-grade, and premium gas ready for your selection.  I think most of us quickly choose the cheapest option of the regular gas and never think about the other options and why premium gas is better.

Premium is better because it has higher octane than the other options at your fuel pump.  Octane is the measurement of the compression gas can take before igniting. 

Performance cars use premium gas because their engines require it and to provide power.  If you have ever driven in a performance vehicle, they have a lot of instant power and can get up to top speeds very quickly!  Another effect of using it is that performance cars use that fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions because the fuel is combusted at a higher rate.

For example, premium typically has an octane of 91-94 and formula one cars use an octane of 95-102.  The octane gas for us regular folk is 87 and mid-grade is 89-90.

What is Engine Knock?

To not go into too much detail, engine knock is the result of the fuel being burned in your engine’s cylinder unevenly.  When it is burned unevenly this causes your engine to lose efficiency and potentially cause damage to the cylinder walls and pistons.  The damage occurs because the energy transfer is occurring in the wrong location.

Engine knock could occur to your engine if your engine is designed to use premium and regular is used instead.

There are other things that can cause engine knocking such as faulty spark plugs. 

When To Use Premium Gas

You only have to use premium if your vehicle requires it.  Your vehicle will require it when you have a higher-performing vehicle that has an engine with higher compression ratios.  High compression engines are going to burn that gas with more power and will use less gas than an engine with lower compression. 

If you don’t have a vehicle that requires it, then premium gas won’t do much for you except hurt your wallet.  Check out this article that mentions that US drivers waste a lot of money purchasing premium gasoline when they don’t need it.  Basically, drivers think it is a good option for their engine when in fact there has been no evidence to show that there are increased benefits. 

Review your owner’s manual to determine if you need premium and potentially save some coin if you don’t!

Why Is Premium Gas So Expensive?

Typically, there are two answers to this. 

The first is the basic one.  Premium requires a lot more input and work to get it to meet the standards required to become a premium gas.  This typically means blending the gas with additives called alkylate to boost the octane.  Regular gas does not typically need the boost in the form of alkylate but can use the cheaper additive called ethanol.

The second is supply and demand.  Premium gas can fluctuate a lot more than regular gas because there aren’t as many users for it.  So, the price of premium gas can stay higher because there is less of it, and people that need it do not have other options to go to. 


To sum things up, here is a bullet point reference:

  • Premium is better than regular or mid-grade because:
    • Higher octane
    • Fuel efficient in performance vehicles
    • Reduces carbon emissions
    • One negative is the cost!
  • Premium Octane: 95-102, Mid Grade: 89-90, Regular: 87
  • Engine knock is damaging to your vehicle.  It could occur if you use regular gas on your performance vehicle.
  • To save money only use premium gas if your vehicle manual or gas lid/cap requires it
  • Premium does nothing for vehicles that do not require it
  • Premium gas is more expensive due to the process to create it and supply/demand

Find out how long gas can sit in a car until it needs to be replaced.