As you drive along the road and pass by gas stations, you may be surprised to see the price of gasoline fluctuate from one location to another in the matter of days, and sometimes even hour by hour. You may wonder what makes gas prices so fickle. Since oil is traded globally, developments that occur halfway across the world can impact the price of gasoline at your local gas station.
Gas prices can spike unexpectedly or tumble suddenly due to a variety of factors, including:
- Seasonal or state-specific reasons
- Supply and demand
- Globally significant factors
- Unpredictable natural disasters
- Your state’s fuel tax
- Location (proximity to oil refineries)
One way to save money at the pump is to ensure that you are using the correct type of gasoline.
Using premium gas (which is on average $0.50 more a gallon than regular gas) has no positive or negative effect on your vehicle if it is not intended to use higher-octane gasoline. Some people think putting premium gas in their vehicle (no matter if their owner’s manual directs them to or not) is similar to putting healthier food in their body to yield better performance. That is not always the case.
Premium gasoline is considered any type of gas with an octane level higher than 91. Octane level 91 and 93 are the most common versions of premium gasoline on the market. They are sometimes referred to as “ultra” or “super premium.” Gasoline with an octane level of 87 is considered to be regular gas. Octane level 89 is referred to as “midgrade” gasoline by most gas stations. As of 2016, over 70% of U.S. drivers drove a vehicle that required regular gasoline to operate. 16% required premium fuel and the remaining 14% used midgrade gasoline or alternate energy sources to operate their vehicles.
What exactly is octane you might wonder?
The octane rating of gasoline controls how likely it is for engine combustion, when energy is released from a fuel and air mixture, to occur. The higher the octane level, such as 91 and 93 premium gasoline, the less likely the combustion will occur at any time other than when it was designed to occur. This is referred to as pre-ignition (also commonly called “engine knock” because of the sound it makes) and higher-octane gasoline is designed to resist engine knock.
Vehicles are designed to run best with certain types of fuel. Most high-performance cars call for premium gasoline to make it work more efficiently and emit less emissions and exhaust. Be sure to abide by your car’s owner’s manual when it comes to which type of fuel to use. Some will say premium gasoline is recommended – in those instances, save your money and go with regular gasoline. Others will state that higher-octane gas is required – splurge for premium gas and don’t skimp at the pump in these instances. Using the required octane for your specific car will help to prevent damage to your car’s engine and help it run at maximum efficiency. If you accidentally use a lower level octane gasoline in your vehicle that requires premium fuel, you may reduce your car’s fuel economy, power and could cause engine damage.
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