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Daily Smart Fact #4: All Gasoline Brands are the Same…Sorta

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Key Takeaway: All gas is almost identical, the only difference is in the additives that different manufacturers put in the gas.

So maybe this isn’t really a “fact”, since there appears to be different opinions about it while searching the interwebs.  But this is my take:

Have you ever driven around looking for a particular gas station brand, because you refuse to put “cheap gas” in your car?  I grew up with this mentality, because my mom has always sworn up and down that her Subaru Outback got less gas mileage whenever she put Arco gas in it.  So I was surprised to hear, while listening to NPR’s Car Talk the other day, that all gas is the same.  I guess I never really put much thought to it before but that really sparked my interest, so here’s some information I’ve been able to gather.

  • All gas come from a small handful of distributors – so various brands are actually the SAME gas.
  • All gas must meet the minimum federal gas quality requirement – so if you use gas from some independent gas station or Chevron, your car will run.
  • The difference is that at the point of distribution, different brands add different additives (e.g., Techron, Cleantech, etc)
  • Back in 2004,  several big carmakers — GM, Honda, Toyota and others — were unhappy with the detergent performance of gasoline, because they were finding deposits inside their beautiful engines. So they got together and created some new gasoline standards that are tougher than the federal standards. They called the gasoline that meets these higher standards “Top Tier” gas.
  • The companies that voluntarily agreed to sell only Top Tier gas in the United States are: QuikTrip, Chevron, Conoco, Phillips, 76, Shell, Entec, MFA Oil, Kwik Trip/Kwik Star, Somerset, Aloha Petroleum and Texaco.
  • So…cheaper gas tends to also mean cheaper additives

Bottom Line: Although gas is essentially the same, its the different additives that brands put in that can help make a difference. Cheaper gas tends to mean cheaper additives and dirtier gasoline.

Resources: Gasoline FAQ, Car Talk via projo, Can discount gas crimp your ride?

Written by Bea

May 16, 2011 at 10:46 am

Posted in Economy

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