When you go to fill up your tank at a fueling station, you’ll have undoubtedly noticed the extra petrol pumps they have, offering more expensive petrol. This will be of a higher octane level, and may be called things like Premium, Momentum, Ultimate or Super. There will often be advertisements close by too, letting you know all about the benefits of buying this superior petrol. 

The question is, is the additional cost worth it? Most people are put off by the higher price, but some cars would actually benefit from a higher octane fuel. If you have a performance vehicle, you may want to invest in a tank of premium petrol at least on occasion. High octane petrol will ensure the car reaches its peak performance, and should do your engine some good, helping to prevent costly repair bills in the future. 

But even if you do have a performance car, does that mean you should always opt for the more expensive fuel? We’ve explored this topic in more detail below:

What is Premium Petrol?

Premium petrol essentially just has a higher octane level than normal petrol. In Britain, the normal octane level is 95, while premium petrol has a level of between 97 and 98. This may not sound like a huge difference, but a larger octane percentage will mean the compression rate in your engine is higher, theoretically making the vehicle perform better. 

The catch is, your car will only run better if it’s been designed to require a higher octane fuel. You are unlikely to see a significant performance improvement if your vehicle is set up to run with standard petrol, and in the UK, the majority of cars only need normal petrol.

You should only really use premium petrol if your car specifically needs it. These will be high performance vehicles which will cost a lot more to purchase, and will generally be more expensive to run. 

Can You Get Premium Diesel?

While not as common as premium petrol, you can get a premium diesel. But because a diesel engine gets power through compression rather than igniting fuel, a higher octane level would be redundant. So the more expensive diesels instead focus on protecting the engine. 

Premium diesels have additional chemicals which are designed to prevent oily build ups in the engine’s fuel system, as well as shift soot deposits in the engine. So these types of diesel won’t boost performance, but can prevent long term engine damage. 

Can Lower Octane Petrol Damage Your Car?

In some countries, you can get petrol with lower octane than 95, which may cause what is known as ‘knocking’. This is where the mixture of petrol and air in the cylinder of your engine doesn’t burn as it should. You may notice that your engine sounds rougher than normal, and you may hear a pinging noise when the engine is running. If lower octane fuel is used too often, this can lead to engine failure, so it’s important to be careful when driving your vehicle abroad.

In terms of using normal petrol in a high performance car, the vehicle may suffer from knock. As these vehicles tend to have a higher compression ratio, they require a higher rate of octane fuel. You can check what sort of petrol your car needs in the owner’s manual, or on the label inside the fuel filler flap. 

How to Cut Fuel Costs

If you are looking to spend less on fuel overall, unfortunately you can’t do a lot about the petrol prices. But there are things you can do to improve your miles per gallon rate, as well as spend less on petrol in general. Firstly, you can make an effort to drive more smoothly. This means things like being gentle with the throttle, changing gears slightly earlier, and braking gently. 

Other things you can try include clearing out your boot, so that your car is lighter. And if you have a roof rack or other additional weight on the outside of your vehicle, it may be worth removing these too. 

You can furthermore spend less on petrol if you’re willing to shop around. Even if a petrol station is a few miles further out, if the price per litre is just a few pence cheaper, it will be worth the longer journey. 

For more tips on cutting back on fuel costs, you can check out our blog post ‘5 Ways to Save Fuel’.

Is Premium Petrol Worth It?

Before answering this question, you need to look at your vehicle specifications. If the car requires a higher level of octane fuel, then buying premium petrol will be worth the cost. Your vehicle will perform better, and you’ll be protecting your engine from long term damage. On the other hand, if your car doesn’t need high octane petrol, investing in this type of fuel will only mean unnecessary costs. 

The bigger question is whether you wish to prioritise affordability over performance. When you’re buying a new vehicle, you need to think about your vehicle usage and your finances. If you’re constantly on the road, a higher performance vehicle may be the better choice, though you would be spending more on fuel. If you’re looking for the more economical option, a normal car that runs on standard petrol is probably the best choice!

And when considering the cost of a vehicle, in terms of a vehicle loan, it’s always a good idea to use a car finance calculator before applying. That way, you can see how you’re able to spread the cost of a vehicle. Getting a car on finance can make both options above - a high performance or an economical car - more affordable!