Premium Fuel, Is It Worth Your Money?

When visiting petrol stations, you’ll almost certainly have come across ‘premium’ fuel options. They sometimes go by names like ‘super’, ‘ultimate’ and ‘momentum.’ But what exactly are these fuel-types and are they worth the increased price? The answer very much depends on who you ask, the brand of the fuel and the type of car you’re driving. Here’s a round-up of the ongoing debate and some insights into whether premium fuels are worth it for you and your vehicle. 

What Is Premium Fuel? – Premium fuels, which cover both petrol and diesel, have a higher octane rating than standard brands. Octane is a chemical component in fuel and the larger the concentration the greater the activation energies. This means that, in theory, higher levels can make an engine work more efficiently and improve overall performance. Standard petrol typically has an octane rating of 95, whilst premium types can be as high as 99. For diesel, the standard rating is 51 (as determined by the European Union) whilst premiums offer ratings as high as 60. In some countries, octane rates are far lower. If used, these can cause a ‘knocking’ effect which causes your engine to sound rough due to the fuel not burning properly. Conversely, high-performance car models sometimes have a similar reaction to standard octane levels. Owners’ manuals should always include recommended octane levels.

Diesel engines don’t ignite fuel in order to produce power. As a result, premium diesels tend to market themselves almost a cleaning product. The typical claims are that they contain particular chemicals capable of cleaning the soot, debris and old oil out of your engine and fuel system.

How Much Does It Cost? – As the name implies, premium fuel is more expensive than standard petrol and diesel. The average gap between standard and premium fuel is around 10p per litre, although this can be as high as 30p. As you can expect, prices can vary greatly throughout the year. There are also dozens of brands to choose from, ranging from established fuel giants like BP to supermarket’s own. A central debate is whether claimed fuel economy will make up for increased costs at the pump via better mpg or not.

Does It Work: In short, probably not (at least for typical vehicles). What you need to consider is the model of your car and the sort of journeys you’re undertaking. The vast majority of cars on Britain’s roads are designed to run on an octane level of 95; which is the standard level throughout the country. This means that your vehicle, in the long-term, should work absolutely fine on standard fuel without ever tasting a premium brand. As a result, mainstream cars are unlikely to benefit. For cars that run on diesel, it’s worth using a premium brand from time to time in order to determine whether the cleaning benefits have any discernible effects. In terms of performance it’s a simple fact that, if you have a 100 horsepower engine, that’s it’s maximum output regardless of what fuel you fill it up with. If you’re lucky enough to be driving a powerful, high-performance car, your owner’s manual will likely suggest a higher octane-grade fuel as standard.

Concerning mpg and fuel economy, the difference (if there is one) is bound to be very slight at best. With up to a 20p difference in terms of price per litre, the effects would have to be very significant; which would surely have been documented in concrete terms by now. After conducting independent premium petrol tests, ‘WhatCar’ concluded “Premium fuels are an unnecessary expense with no major fuel economy benefit.” The Diesel Car Magazine has said “Don’t spend money blindly on premium diesel if you can’t identify any measurable differences.”

Conclusion: For the majority of car models in the UK, premium fuel simply has little to offer. Differences in performance are largely anecdotal, as are differences in terms of fuel economy. High-powered cars, like sports cars, may need higher octane levels than mainstream vehicles as default; this is due to the demands of their fuel systems and their typical uses on the open road. Premium diesel does contain chemical properties capable of ‘cleaning’ your fuel system, but to what extent remains unclear. The best option is to experiment with it and to discern any notable differences in performance and your driving experience. Generally speaking, however, you’re absolutely fine sticking to standard petrol and diesel.

Regardless of where you stand on the premium fuel debate, your car will require regular service and maintenance. For just £8.99 a month, Club Members can receive huge fuel discounts via The Fuelcard People, up to 40% off servicing, 15% off new tyres and access to our professional 24/7 helpline. To learn more, contact our friendly Service Advisers on 0121 521 3500 today.   

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