Clark Howard

Does the Brand of Gasoline Really Matter?

When you fill up your tank, there are several things you need to consider: How much will you put in the tank? What credit card will you use to pay for gas? What brand of gas will you use?

To that latter point, you may wonder whether the brand of gasoline — Shell, Mobile, Texaco and the like — makes a difference. That's what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast asked recently.

Money expert Clark Howard says that buying the wrong type of gasoline is a mistake for your wallet, but it's not so much about brand names.

“What makes gasoline a particular brand are the additives … Many times they are added in by the tank farm driver at the individual station,” Clark says. “It is not at all unusual even with tank farms, sharing fuel with each other, that when one may be low of a particular grade, or whatever, they’ll share with one another. And then the additives are added later.”

So, yes, Clark says, there are differences from gasoline to gasoline, but that’s not the standard you should worry about.

“The standard that I’d like for you to look at instead of the brand name on the station, is that the gas is Top Tier,” Clark says.

Is Top Tier Gas Worth It?

Top Tier gas is a fuel with a specific detergent mix that enhances engine performance.

AAA reports that "Among brands tested, non-TOP TIER gasolines caused 19 times more engine deposits than TOP TIER brands after just 4,000 miles of simulated driving. Such carbon deposits can reduce fuel economy, increase emissions and negatively impact vehicle performance, particularly on newer vehicles."

“The engineers say that Top Tier actually is worth it and is valuable,” Clark says. “In terms of the brand name on the station, not as much.”

Final Thoughts

Sold on the benefits of Top Tier gas? We have a guide that lists the gas stations that sell Top Tier gas.

The good news is that there are other ways to make the most of your gasoline purchases.

For example, the day of the week that you choose to fill 'er up can help keep your costs down.

Read our definitive guide on how to save on gas.

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