Originally Posted by 20/20
The Price Is Premium, But 'Gas Is Gas'
When you head out on vacation this summer, you'll probably spend big bucks filling your car's gas tank, while griping about the price. But a lot of you who are complaining could be spending less for your gas.
You have a choice of gas at the pump. The price of 93 octane premium is more than regular 87 octane — about 20 cents more per gallon at many stations. Because premium costs more, a lot of people think it's better for their cars.
People told us premium gasoline gives them better gas mileage, more power and cleaner engines.
Regular gas, one woman told "20/20," "leaves a lot of gunk in your engine … That's what my daddy taught me."
But her daddy — and many of you who buy premium — are wasting your money.
NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek knows this. "Believe me, I've pumped gas in from about every gas station there's been in my personal cars. Whether it's around town or on vacation or wherever, you put the regular in there it keeps on running," he said. The NASCAR drivers, mechanics, and car makers will tell you that for 90 percent of the cars sold today, high octane is no better than regular gas. It won't give you better mileage, more power or a cleaner engine. NASCAR crew member Lisa Smokstad told us what every expert told us.
"It is a myth that cars run better on premium gas," she said.
Some cars do need higher octane — older cars that knock, and cars with high-compression, high-revving engines like Ferraris, Bentleys, Jaguars, Acuras, Mercedes and Corvettes.
But 90 percent of new cars don't need it — check your owner's manual. The car manufacturers and every car expert we consulted told us that for most cars, high octane is a waste of money. Even the gas companies that sell the high-octane fuel — and make more money off of it — admit most people don't need it. But they don't go out of their way to tell you that.
Once you've figured out which octane to buy, does the brand matter? Are the well-known national brands better than the no-name brands, which are usually cheaper?
People we spoke to gave similar reasons for buying name-brand gasoline that they gave for buying high-octane gas. They believed the national brands were higher quality, and better for their cars.
But they may not know that all the gas, brand name and generic, comes from the same refineries. Brand names do use different additives, but it doesn't make them better for your car.
In 1996, the Federal Trade Commission forced Amoco, which denied any wrongdoing, to stop claiming in its ads that it was better than other brands without scientific evidence to back it up.
"It's a myth that brand-name gas is better than a no-name gas," said mechanic Dave Bowman, co-host of "Two Guys Garage" on cable TV's Speed channel.
"It doesn't make any difference whether you're buying a branded product or a no-name product," he said.
"The only difference is price."
The NASCAR drivers agree about that, too. "It's a myth, you don't need the high-octane gasoline, you don't need the, the name-brand stuff," said driver Jimmie Johnson.
Some of the fans have figured that out.
One man summed it up nicely for us. "The manufacturers and the gasoline dealers, they all want you to buy that expensive stuff. It all runs on the same stuff. Gas is gas."