Purchase the Right Gasoline

Taking care of your car is essential to keeping it running efficiently for a long time. One very important way to do this is to make sure you’re using the right gasoline. With all the different gas options out there, it can be hard to know which is right for your car. Fortunately, it’s easier than you might think to figure out what type of gas your car takes and get the best option at the pump.


Determining What Type of Gas to Use

  1. Check the owner’s manual in the “Fluids” section. This should always be your first step since the best way to know what type of gasoline is right for your car is by going with the manufacturer’s recommendation. If the manual doesn’t have a “Fluids” section, look in the index for “Gasoline.”[1]
    • Most vehicles will call for regular octane gasoline, but some will perform better and have longer engine life if high octane gasoline is used.
  2. Look at the label near the gas cap if you don’t have the manual. Automakers often use the gas cap to show what type of fuel a specific car takes. There should be a label on the inside of the door covering the cap or near the fuel filler neck. This label should contain instructions or recommendations for what type of fuel to use for your car’s engine.[2]
    • These instructions will say something like “Diesel Fuel Only” or “Unleaded Gasoline Only.”{{greenbox:Tip: Check out the instrument cluster on your dashboard. It might say something like "Unleaded Fuel Only." Also, look for the little arrow near the fuel gauge that points either left or right to tell you which side of your car the gas cap is on if you're not sure.}}
    • Some cars have a gas cap that opens with a release lever, while others can be opened manually by pushing or pulling on the cap itself.
  3. Ask a mechanic or dealer if you still don’t know what type of gas to use. Ask a local car dealer or customer representative about the best kinds of gasoline to purchase for your vehicle's make. Your mechanic will also probably be familiar with which types of gasoline would produce the best engine performance in a car like yours. For best results, talk to the mechanic that works on your car most frequently and that you trust to tell you the truth.[3]
    • If you don’t have a regular mechanic that you go to, talk to a local mechanic that specializes in the type of car that you drive.
    • A mechanic will also be able to tell you about warning signs to watch for if the wrong gasoline is causing your car to malfunction.
  4. Be sure to always go with the “required” gasoline type. Some car manufacturers will list certain gasoline types as “recommended.” This means that you can use other types of gasoline, but you won’t get as much horsepower out of your engine. If a manufacturer states that a type of gasoline is “required,” though, this means you cannot use any other type of gas in your car.[4]
    • The most common example of this distinction is applied to premium gasoline. Manufacturers of certain cars will say “Premium fuel recommended” or “Premium fuel required” in the owner’s manual.

Getting the Best Fuel for Your Car

  1. Go with the required octane rating for your car if it takes unleaded gas. In most cases, the required octane rating provided by the manufacturer will run most efficiently in your particular engine. Most gasoline vehicles run on 87 octane, although most turbo and supercharged engines require a higher octane rating.[5]
  2. Opt for midgrade or premium gasoline if yours is an older car. An older car with an older engine might run more smoothly with premium gasoline, even if the manufacturer doesn’t require it. By contrast, a newer car with fewer maintenance needs or problems will probably be fine with cheaper regular gasoline, unless the owner’s manual says otherwise.[6]
    • Using midgrade or premium gasoline in a car that doesn’t require it will usually not cause any damage to the engine. However, it also may not provide any benefits to your car’s performance, depending on the type of car you’re driving.
    • Note that higher octane gasoline is usually more expensive than regular gasoline.
  3. Make sure to only buy diesel fuel if you have a diesel engine. If yours is a diesel vehicle, it will only work with diesel fuel and not with ordinary gasoline. If you put ordinary gasoline in a diesel car, you may seriously damage your engine.[7]
    • On the flip side, if you put diesel in a car that’s meant to take gas, take it to a service station to have it drained in order to avoid damaging it.
  4. Choose ethanol fuel or gas if your car is a flexible fuel vehicle (FFV). This type of vehicle can run on either gasoline or 85% ethanol fuel (sometimes referred to as E85). Not only do most FFVs run equally well on ethanol as they do on gasoline, but they also produce less carbon dioxide emissions than ordinary cars.[8]
    • Some FFVs also produce more torque and horsepower when using ethanol than when running on gasoline.
    • Note that FFVs typically get 15%-27% fewer miles per gallon when fueled with ethanol, since E85 contains less sugar per gallon than ordinary gasoline.
  5. Look for stations that offer Top Tier fuel to improve your gas mileage. Top Tier gasoline is gas that has deposit control additives that clean your engine and help it run more efficiently. Although some providers sell Top Tier gas for a bit higher price, it’ll be worth it in the long run.[9]
    • You’ll end up saving money on repairs over time, so you might even be saving money by opting for the more expensive Top Tier gas!


  • Gas pumps now have fuel for special cars, such as hybrid vehicles, alongside standard gasoline. Read the signs at the pump carefully and double check that you've chosen fuel that is safe for your vehicle before you start pumping.


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