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Does Your Car Really Need Premium Gasoline?

There’s been a lot of talks lately as to whether or not your car needs premium fuel or if it’s just a waste of money. Most sources say that standard or mid-grade gas should be fine unless you have a high-compression engine, even if your car says it wants premium.

Both of my cars say that they want premium fuel, so I decided to try it out on my 1997 Nissan Maxima. I wasn’t about to test on my Nissan 300ZX; the compression ratio is really high on it anyway.

So after reading all these articles saying that I should only use regular or mid-grade gas, I waited until my fuel tank was empty and filled up on some 89 octane ethanol-blend mid-grade. On the way home, I did notice a decrease in power, but nothing serious.

The next morning (which happened to be in the winter,) the car took longer to start; it would struggle to turn over. Was it because it was ridiculously cold? Possibly, but it was even colder the day before, and it ran just fine. The problem continued throughout the next couple of days, along with the car idling weird and generally acting strange, including the lack of power.

When the tank was about half-empty (or full, if you’re one of those optimists,) I filled it up with the premium again, so it was a 50/50 blend. The problem almost went away. Essentially just what you would expect from half-good, half-bad gasoline. It had about half the problems it did with the strictly mid-grade gas. I waited until it was near empty, filled it up with my normal premium (91 octane here in Iowa,) and never had that problem again.

Am I saying not to try to run your car on mid-grade gas instead of premium? No. Just because I had a less-than-desirable experience with it, doesn’t mean you will. What I’m saying is all of these professional publications trying to tell you that premium fuel is a waste of money (like USA Today) is hogwash. Try it for yourself if you believe that it may save you some money.

  1. had you left it, you would find that Maxima's of that vintage develope a pretty healthy ping on light accel when using regular gas. It was a pretty common concern when I was at Nissan.

  2. Thanks for the comment Gary. Was this corrected for the next generation Maxima?

  3. Interesting post Egon. I am going to try this out with my 07 Accord 4cyl. I usually put in 89 octane gas but I will fill it up with 93 (or higher) and see what impact it has on the car. I currently get about 26-28 MPG with 89 octane fuel so I wonder if I will see an improvement in gas mileage.

  4. I finally found the Jag I've dreamed about XK8 2001

    It also requests premium according to the little sticker

    I don't plan on ruining a dream but is premium necessary?

  5. Congrats, Mark! Personally, I'd use premium. Always. Even if you wouldn't harm the engine with regular gas, premium will ensure you're getting maximum performance. For me, it's not worth the risk.

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