I actually ask myself this question every time I fill up the car on the garage forecourt: would it be worth paying slightly more for the premium fuel compared to the cheaper option which is what I usually go for.
So I was interested to listen to this podcast in which the presenter interviews various fuel and car experts to find out whether or not paying for Premium fuel is worth it?!?
TLDR: Unless you've got a classic or performance car, then NO!
Two fuel options
Most garages give you two options at the pumps:
- Regular E10 - currently £1.46 a litre
- Premium E5 - currently £1.62 a litre
So that's a chunky 10% that you pay for the Premium version of petrol, and according to numerous sources the cost simply IS NOT worth it!
So what's the difference between the two fuels?
The hint is in the 'E' which refers to 'Ethanol'. The premium grade as a lower Ethanol content and so there's more 'fossil fuel' in there.
AND the E5 also has more 'additives' which apparently help the car run cleaner so there is less build up of gunk in the engine over time, but on a very small level, so regular mechanics wouldn't spot it, you would need a microscope...
According to one expert the premium fuel does deliver higher efficiency for the higher cost, but only about 1% in terms of MPG, but you MIGHT make back your money because the additives prevent build up of carbon in engine.
HOWEVER, you can actually buy additives separately and add those in, and that would probably be cheaper than buying premium fuel all the time.
The differences in efficiency have NOTHING to do with the ethanol content differences, in fact the lower ethanol content in the Premium fuel actually makes it LESS efficient than the regular fuel, it's the other additives that make the difference.
The CHEAPER FUEL is probably GREENER...
Something I didn't realise is that ALL fuel used to be E5, then the regular fuel was changed to E10 because it's greener thanks to MORE ethanol, and now what we call E5 is premium, the same as the old stuff.
Of course you'd have to check the opportunity cost in terms of carbon of the land being used to grow biofuel NOT growing trees, and the manufacturing cost, but the higher ethanol fuel is probably greener!
When to use E5
Classic cars may not be able to run on E10 fuel, you might need to old E5 for those and performance cars also might benefit from the 'dirtier' but 'better for the engine' old fuel too.
Final thoughts... Premium fuel is probably marketing BS
It seems that for most of us Premium fuel simply isn't worth paying for.... the regular fuel is better the environment and 99% as efficient in terms of mileage and 10% cheaper.
Any cleaning effects you can get from either buying your own additives, or more easily simply putting in some premium fuel once every few months!
Much more important to get your car serviced regularly and the oil changed!