AAA says drivers waste billions paying for premium gasoline

A man reaches for an unleaded petrol nosel at a fuel pump outside a Royal Dutch Shell petrol station in Hook, near Basingstoke on January 20, 2016. Royal Dutch Shell said it expected a sharp decline in full-year net profits, as plunging oil prices slash the earnings of leading energy companies.  AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP / ADRIAN DENNIS        (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

A man reaches for an unleaded petrol nosel at a fuel pump outside a Royal Dutch Shell petrol station in Hook, near Basingstoke on January 20, 2016. Royal Dutch Shell said it expected a sharp decline in full-year net profits, as plunging oil prices slash the earnings of leading energy companies. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP / ADRIAN DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

If you love your car, you only feed it premium gas. Right? It’s cleaner, more efficient, and keeps that engine purring. Right? In the long run, the premium gas pays for itself by extending the life of your car. Right?

Not so fast, says AAA. The automotive services company recently said drivers wasted $2.1 billion in the past year paying for premium fuel when regular is just as good for their cars.

Financial information site MarketWatch cites a AAA research paper released on Tuesday that found “no difference between premium and regular in terms of horsepower, fuel economy, or lower tailpipe emissions.”

The Energy Information Administration said the share of premium gas in total gas sales reach 11% in September 2015, the highest in more than a decade and a rebound from a 7.8% low in June 2008.

Premium gas has a higher octane rating than regular. Octane is a gasoline additive which has taken various forms through the years, from lead, which was phased out in the 1970s, to ethanol.

Some car makers recommend premium gas, which costs 23 percent more than regular, while only 16 percent of vehicles sold in the U.S. require the higher octane, AAA said.

Enter, the energy companies, with “marketing campaigns that tout the cleaning abilities of their fuel detergent additive packages,” AAA said.

AAA said unless the engine is specifically designed to run on high octane fuel, “motorists are not treating their vehicle in any meaningful way.”

AAA did state that the station at which you buy your gas actually can make a difference. A study found “significant differences” in the quality of regular gasoline from station to station. The company compiled a list of gas retailers that meet their standard of performance and leave less residue on engines. In other words, maybe that no-name station down the road with gas a few cents cheaper isn’t always a better option.

For the best performance and lifespan of a vehicle, AAA says there’s still no beating regular scheduled maintenance.