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Is Cheap Gas Bad for Your Car?

Edmunds.comEdmunds.com Posts: 10,112
edited November 2014 in General
imageIs Cheap Gas Bad for Your Car?

Is there much difference in the quality between off-brand cheap gas and gas from well-known companies?

Read the full story here


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Comments

  • I've seen major franchise brands put no-name brand fuel in their pumps. They'll hustle you just like the car companies, the government, Wall Street.....

    All that glitters is not gold, my friends.
  • If next five years or ten years if US popular will own new diesel vehicles will replacement to currently gasoline vehicles in gas station about if the gas station will both gas and diesel pumps.
  • This article is only partially true. If you have a car with a Turbo engine and the car's manual states that Premium gasoline is required, you will damage the engine if you use standard gas and create serious issues. Standard gas is perfectly fine for normally aspirated engines.
  • I've never had an issue with grocery-store brand gas and it's usually the cheapest around here.
  • The gas might be safe for engines but not for Fuel Pumps/Sending Units. The problem that this article overlooks is that stations buy gasoline from many different vendors. Different vendors use different additives (different for every company because they are proprietary) mix with each other and react like most chemicals and its not enough to hurt an engine but a fuel pump which is the size of a soda can with small metal and plastic parts it can be devastating. Cheaper gasoline will also have more sulfur content which can corrode and damage sending units making the Fuel Gauge inaccurate and dance up and down between empty and full. I have had multiple experiences with these issues. 1) 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier 2.2L Ecotec I4 had fuel pump die after refueling at WAWA and rolled to a stop on I95 near Philadelphia Airport. Was able to scurry to shoulder with help. 2) 2000 Ford Ranger XLT 2.5L SOHC died in driveway after refueling at WAWA. Both incidents happened within 3 weeks of each other. 3) 2001 & 2002 Oldsmobile Aurora and Intrigue both used WAWA gas and fuel gauges went crazy. When removed from Intrigue the sender unit had copper contacts that had been burnt and corroded.
  • Yes, all good info. Now can anyone please put this myth to the test about it being bad to gas-up when the tanker is there filling the gas stations tanks?
  • bankerdannybankerdanny Posts: 1,021
    Bestinjo: you are confusing Premium (high octane) with premium brand (BP vs local brand).
  • I know that after using a lower-cost alternative for fuel repeatedly in my Subaru, it began throwing a "Cylinder misfire" code that was cleared up by some fuel-system cleaner. So in that instance, the fuel I was using seems to have promoted some build-up. However, my car had 175,000 miles on it at the time, so there's no telling how much build-up there already was, and the issue was fixed by a $5 bottle of fuel system cleaner.

    So I stick to the bigger brands when I can, but will also use the less expensive brands when I feel like penny-pinching and then just use a bottle of fuel-system cleaner on occasion to clean up any residue that may have been left behind.
  • greenponygreenpony Chicago, ILPosts: 531
    I've never had a brand preference. After driving probably half a million miles in my life so far, the cheapest gas has always worked just fine.
  • The same subject came on Motorweek just the other week. They suggested staying away from off brand names. Not because they're bad but because fewer customers to the stations means that the gasoline in the storage tanks stay longer. Because gasoline evaporates, the longer gas is stored in the tank, the more gasoline evaporates minus the additives. This then results in a higher proportion of additives to gasoline which can cause harm to your engine, fuel filter and so on.

    A tip I was told years ago was to rotate through the different gasoline brands because even the additives can build up. Additives from one gasoline will see the additives from another gasoline as build up and remove it. Not sure how true that is...
  • Adding to comments about the stations themselves, as a recipient of two tanks of contaminated gas that messed up my fuel system, caution should be taken when deciding to save money by filling up at a station that you know has been around for 25+ years or a relatively new station with newer tanks and filtered lines.
  • I have had to replace an expensive fuel injection component on my GMC truck because of cheap gas. I will never save enough money using crap gas because of that expensive repair. Now after 10 years of long use, the fuel injection is clean and it still passes smog after all this time by using additive gasoline.
  • Nomally run 87 in my '08 Mustang GTCS. Tried 93 for several weeks and it got poorer mileage and stumbled and hesitated allot. I suspect the premium is not sold much and is probably pretty stale compared to the higher usage "cheap" stuff. True for both BP and Shell in the car.
  • So, the point of the article is that off brand gas doesn't damage the engine of a modern car. I feel that if this article had been posted in Edmunds.com two years ago, it would have had a more scientific, methodical outlay to its conclusion. With the evidence from independent sources provided, there was really no point in dragging this article out beyond the "'Buy the cheapest gas that is closest to you'" statement.
  • chep gas is no bad for you car but if you car 20+ millas for 1 gallon of good gas is going too be 20- w/chep gas.
  • eric_leric_l Posts: 7
    There is so much blatantly wrong information in the comments section of this article. The article itself is basically correct - gasoline is a fungible commodity and what gets transported from the refinery to the depot (where the fuel trucks fill up) is basically the same thing - it doesn't matter if it will go to a Chevron, Shell, BP, or Bob's Budget Gas. All the trucking companies that deliver fuel do so on a per load basis, and they don't care who they deliver to (the marking on the side of the truck is for the most part, meaningless) - depending on where they make their delivery, the depot will dispense whatever additional proprietary detergent package that the station requires. That's it. Any reports of "bad gas" or "low quality gas" has more to do with the quality of that particular station's filters and holding tanks than it does the actual product being delivered, since it is for the most part, identical to any other gas station save a bit of extra detergent. As long as you buy gas from a busy station, there should be absolutely no problems. As for Motorweek's "gas sitting so long it will end up concentrating detergents.." - take a minute to think about it. Is that really so dangerous? Chevron claims that adding a bottle of Techron concentrate gives you 10x the average techron concentration of Chevron gas, and that is obviously safe to run every 3000 miles (the limit is more to due to it seeping past the rings and diluting the oil, rather than what it could do the fuel system).
  • joliepopjoliepop Posts: 1
    Interesting stuff here about Shell. I googled can cheap gas hurt your car and this article is the first that came up. I have a 96 Honda Civic that until recently NEVER EVER had any engine issues. I realize it's now vintage, but I have taken exceptional and preventive car of this car. I ran out of credit late last Summer and started putting Arco gas in my tank as I could get cheaper since I was now paying Cash for everything. Six mos later, I needed a tune up. Now need a new head gasket. I have crud build up in my brand-new radiator. I have 130k miles on my engine. I realize people will say oh it was just time for those things to fail. But I don't believe in coincidence. I just don't. I know my car, I know my engine and it went from purring like a kitten to staling, having bad starts, just issues that yes, may have happened in time. But I think a few cents more a gallon may have at least bought me more time before these things failed. I mentioned that my car seemed to hate the cheap gas to my mechanic a few mos after I started using it, and it was stalling, and he told me there is no such thing. Gas is gas, save your money. So I'm going to disagree with everyone. I realize the damage is done, but I put Shell gas in my car tonight and I will never put any other gasoline in my car ever again!
  • ortautoortauto Posts: 13
    I've used Citgo for 30 years or more. I put 215,000 miles on one Ford, and 160,00 miles on another so far - with no engine problems. My son, using the same maintenance proceedures on his first two cars lost the engines a little over 100K. Son saved a few cents on each gallon using no name gas - but lost the cars. Engines completly fouled up beyound repair. Citco station changes filter once a week. No Name gas? I understand the major gas storage outfits sell the bottom of the storage tank to the No Names. You get what you pay for.
  • It seems to me that all gas stations charge the same price for gas as any other. If speedway is $3.39 then swifty, pilot, marathon, etc. are all $3.39 also. Of course you should not use premium if it is not required. If you're gonna pay the same price for gas no matter where you go then might as well get excellent high quality gas, such as "top tier" certified. Shell and exxon, and mobil are all top tier in my area. A cleaner engine is better than a dirty one. Why go cheap on the literal "fuel" for the second largest purchase in your life? Better performance, gas mileage, longer life and less maintenance is worth the same price, or if you must a "few cents" more. Cheap gas also lacks sufficient amounts of other additives too, not just detergents. And chepo gas stations usually don't have programs that let you save even more money per gallon, i.e. Kroger fuel points useable at the best quality gas carrier, SHELL! If chevron additive twice a year is good, how much better is concentrated techron every tank, along with the other high quality and quantity ingredients, i.e. stabilizers, anti-corrosives, lubricants, octane additives and not to mention the base oil.
  • The best thing overall is to buy the same brand of gas every time. Switching from cheapest brand to cheapest brand IS bad for your vehicle! it's common knowledge that BP gas sucks! Even tho it is now a top tier fuel. I recommend SHELL gasoline very tank fuel, and try to keep you're tank at least half full at all times especially in the winter to help avoid water and ice build up, and try to fill up at dawn or duck when its cool outside, as gas expands withe heat, you'll get more for your'e money. Find your nearest high quality fuel station and use that brand every time. To enhance fuel quality even more, use Motorkote Fuel Optimizer as directed. Meijer's has it. SHELL+MOTORKOTE FUEL OPTIMIZER = AWESOME!!!
  • Joliepop, I'm sorry but your friends and mechanic were right about things starting to go wrong at a certain age. My '94 Civic needed a head gasket at 130K. The type of gas you use has nothing to do with your radiator going bad but flushing and refilling at regular intervals does. I personally don't think there's much difference between Shell and Arco. Civics are good cars but between 130K and 150K they will start needing some work, and some of it depends on the type of driving you do (highway or stop and go). It may just be coincidence that you needed a tune up. Are you sure they didn't tell you that you needed a head gasket when you needed something else, you might have wanted to get a second opinion on that one. Cars usually overheat or blow white smoke from the exhaust if there are head gasket issues.
  • Lie, lie, lie! Cheap gasoline will mess up your engine. I worked for scotchmans handee hugo Exxon gas for two years. They gaurantee their gas. Now I work for Army Air Force Exchange Service (aafes). We sell crappy gas. We had to pay for repairs to some customers because of the gas. Problem is the population has been so dumb down, they don't know they can, or how to do this. The United Scoundrels of America (USA) profits above morality.
  • Back in the day, BP used to say their gas was "better" somehow. My dad used to live in a small town, and he saw the same truck fill up the BP as all the other gas stations.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    It's really about cleanliness of the fuel...if your car malfunctions after buying "cheap gas" it might very well be the station's facilities, not their gas, that's the culprit.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    The cheap gas stations around me are pretty high volume dealers. Sometimes you have to wait for a pump. I figure that means the gas is pretty fresh at least.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    If the station looks really grungy to me, I generally pass on it unless I'm desperate.
  • I suggest doing a little low tech research. I worked as a mechanic for many years and ask a truck drivers that haul gas to different stations and they may drop at different stations from the same load. (sometimes they have a jug to color gas for some stations) When they pickup gas it comes from the same storage tank as many other trucks that are picking up gas for delivery. They just wait in line to fill the delivery tanker. I am not saying all company's don't use additives but many may be using the same as the low cost stations have. Maintain the recommended octane required for your engine and follow the recommended maintenance in your owners Manuel is the best advice I can give. Some require injector cleaner at certain times especially in diesels. So follow your vehicles requirements remember sometimes to much of a good thing isn't always better.
  • I just bought a brand new 2016 Toyota corolla and the dealer told me to never put cheap gas in it. He did say I could use regular 87. So I have been buying Shell and I have been getting great milage about 33 mgp so I'm going to stick with Shell.
  • Many experts have said that cheap gas won't be an issue and will not harm a vehicle. But I would personally consider this among the list of subject matter where there are two sides to the coin.
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