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Is it worth paying more for premium fuel?

Premium unleaded and diesel costs more at the pump but is it worth buying and what's the benefit? Sue Hayward investigates.

Male hand holding fuel pump

Premium performance fuels like Shell’s V-Power Nitro +, BP Ultimate or Texaco Supreme make promises to clean and protect your car and even help squeeze more miles from your tank. 

But when it costs more at the pump, is it really worth splashing out on a tank of super fuel?

Premium petrol can cost up to 30p a litre more than standard unleaded petrol, although the typical gap is around 10p.

And it’s not just the big names selling it: even supermarkets sell upgraded versions such as Tesco’s Momentum 99 or Sainsbury’s Super Unleaded.

What is premium fuel?

Super fuel or high performance fuel is petrol with a higher octane rating.  

Most standard brands of fuel have a 95 octane rating.

But super fuel typically has a higher rating - around 98 - which can make the engine work more efficiently and improve performance.

You can also buy versions of super fuel suitable for diesel vehicles too.

Will I notice any difference at the wheel?

But Matthew Minter, editorial director of motor manual publisher Haynes, says most people won’t drive in a way to notice any difference.

"And 99% of cars will work perfectly well on 95 octane standard unleaded fuel," he adds. 

However, says Minter, with certain high-performance sports cars, some experts believe filling them with super fuel can improve performance.

My husband’s always been a super fuel cynic and considered the extra cost a waste of money.

Will super fuel save me money?

But after a work colleague talked up the benefits, he tried it in his Mercedes SLK200 and was surprised with the results.

He saved around £6 per tank due to the extra mileage the super fuel produced.

I, on the other hand, filled up my Peugeot 206 CC for the purpose of research and didn’t notice any difference.

But it's worth trying out super fuel says Chris Patience from the AA.

"Different cars will respond differently to these fuels so the only way to find out really is to try it and see."

Does it have magic cleaning properties?

Premium petrol producers make claims of additives designed to clean and protect your engine but does this make it worth buying regularly?

"Premium fuels do contain more effective detergent additives which help the removal, and prevent formation of, carbon and gum deposits on valves and other components inside the combustion chamber," says Patience.

But there’s no need to regularly fill up with more expensive fuel if you want to look after the insides of your motor - just the occasional tank can do the trick.

Patience adds: "If you’re planning to keep the car long term, using a premium fuel every fourth tank can help engine longevity and maintain performance over time."

Should you start off with super fuel?

If you’re buying a new car, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says some manufacturers will recommend a particular type of fuel.

For example, Ford suggests using BP Ultimate in its vehicles.

Vauxhall on the other hand doesn’t recommend a particular fuel.

Vauxhall spokesman Simon Hucknall says you’d be "wasting your money" by putting high octane performance fuel into most of its standard range of cars, with just a couple of exceptions on its top-of-the-range models.

Should I fill my secondhand motor with premium fuel?

If you buy a secondhand car that’s been run for years on whatever the nearest pump had to offer, regularly flushing it through with a few tankfuls of premium fuel can still improve performance, according to the AA.

"However you’re the only one who can decide if there's a noticeable change in performance or measurable improvement in fuel economy that's worth the premium paid for the fuel," says Minter of Haynes.

Top 5 fuel saving tips

Save money road sign

Whatever the cost of filling up your car, it makes sense to get into some good habits so you don’t spend more than you have to. Here are five top tips from

1. Drive more efficiently

You can use less fuel by driving more efficiently. Accelerate gradually, don't exceed 3,000 revs per minute, avoid braking sharply and drive in the highest gear possible without labouring the engine. This will all help to reduce your fuel consumption. Turning off your engine when you are idle for long periods of time is also an easy way to save on fuel.

2. Make your car more efficient

You can reduce fuel consumption by removing excess weight from your car. You can do this by removing your roof rack when you aren't using it and disposing of any rubbish. You should also make sure your tyres are pumped up to the correct pressure, your air conditioning is turned off on short journeys and you keep your windows closed on motorways.

3. Plan ahead

Before setting off on a journey, try and plan when you will need to refuel and where you will go to do so. This should help you to avoid letting your fuel run low as it may result in you panic-buying at the nearest, most expensive station.

4. Use fuel vouchers and cashback cards

Supermarkets often compete to try and encourage you to use their station, so look out for vouchers that give you money off your fuel spending and use them when you fill up. In addition, some credit cards offer cashback deals on your fuel spending. For example, you can earn 3% cashback at the pumps when using the Santander 123 credit card, up to a spend of £300 per month.

5. Compare prices to find the cheapest petrol stations

Comparison site allows you to check the price of fuel in your postcode and find the cheapest station. The website has petrol prices for almost 11,000 stations in the UK. It also receives approximately 8,000 daily updates, which should ensure you're getting the best deals out there.

Take a look at our infographic for more tips on making your fuel go further.

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Sue Hayward

Carl Chambers

Sue Hayward is a personal finance broadcaster, journalist and author. Sue talks and writes on money matters including chatting on BBC Radio & TV as well as contributing to magazines, websites and newspapers. Sue's also written two books; the latest of which is 'How To Get The Best Deal'.

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