Which Type of Gasoline is Best for Your Vehicle and Why

object, fuel, oil, tank and transport concept - close up of hand holding gasoline hose at gas station

Whether you commute every weekday or simply drive on the weekend, filling your car with gasoline is probably a weekly habit. Every driver has three different choices in gasoline types when they pull up to the gas pump, including 87, 90 and 91 ratings. These varied octane levels have different prices, and most drivers merely pick the cheapest gas in order to save money. However, it’s important to be aware of the best gasoline for your car and why. Consider some of the science behind gasoline so that you can make an educated decision when you fill up later on.


Understanding Octane Ratings

Pull open your car’s operating manual, and take a look at the engine’s specifications. Your vehicle has a certain octane rating that’s designated at the factory. The rating is based off the vehicle’s mechanical design, such as cylinder dimensions and compression ratios. The best octane rating for your vehicle simply protects it from unwanted pinging within the combustion chamber. Pinging directly contributes to an engine’s decline as it wears down faster over time.


The Average New Car

The majority of people purchase a reliable car for their everyday needs instead of a luxury vehicle. These standard cars come with nearly spotless engines. Because the combustion chamber is clean and perfectly designed, the lowest octane rating at the gas pump should be safe for your needs. Your vehicle won’t generate any pinging noises when an 87-octane gasoline is used on a newer engine.


Aging Vehicles

Smiling happy elderly couple in the new car

As a car ages, the engine builds up a lot of residue inside the chambers. These residues actually change the dimensions of the engine’s interior spaces. As a result, a lower octane gasoline may start the pinging process when the engine reaches 10 years or older. Switching to a high-octane gas reduces the pinging effect because that’s how it was designed at the refinery. Reducing the pinging is always your goal if you want to prolong the engine’s lifespan.


High-Performance Models

If you decide to buy a high-performance vehicle, the engine has an entirely different design. The chambers might be smaller or narrower than a standard vehicle, for instance. Because you want to protect your vehicle investment, select a high-octane gasoline when the car is brand new. In fact, your owner’s manual will tell you if 90 or 91 gasoline is appropriate for the vehicle. Luxury or performance vehicles will always need a high-octane fuel.


Experimenting With Octane Levels

Open fuel flap of sport car with recommended octane number

When you’re trying to balance your budget with the vehicle’s needs, you may want to experiment with different octane values. Start your car with an 87 octane, and listen to the engine. If you notice any pinging, try the next octane level. When you have no pinging issues, you’ve found the perfect gasoline that should work for several years.

Mixing different grades of gasoline won’t damage your engine. This myth is often spread among the public so that gasoline stations can make some money off of the higher grades compared to the discount mixtures. Your vehicle will require different octanes throughout its lifetime, but mixing the types will simply get you moving on the road.