AAA study: Cheaper gas can damage engines, lower fuel economy

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – New independent laboratory testing released from AAA Thursday reveals significant differences in the quality of gasoline sold at retailers.

AAA reports cheaper gasoline often lacks enhanced, engine cleaning detergent additives, and that can cause lower gas mileage and damage to a vehicle’s engine. Gasolines with additional detergent additives are usually more expensive and considered top tier, which is different than the octane rating.

Non-top tier gasoline caused 19 times more engine deposits than top tier brands after just 4,000 miles of driving, according to AAA. Those carbon deposits can lead to increased emissions, lower fuel economy, and negatively affect vehicle performance, especially on newer vehicles.


Lee Anderson is one customer who filled up his tank Thursday. He had never heard of non-top tier gasoline before.

“I’m a little bit surprised,” Anderson said. “It makes me a little bit disappointed, but then again they choose to refine their way.”

Shell, Valero, Citgo, ExxonMobil, 76, and Costco are top-tier gasoline retailers in the Midstate.

“It increases your vehicle’s performance, driveability. It increases your fuel economy and also lowers your vehicle emissions,” said Doni Lee Spiegel, public relations manager with AAA Central Penn.

Beverly Clutter only uses top-tier gasoline in her new vehicle. She fueled up at the Shell Gas Station in New Cumberland.

“I’m glad I come here. I like this gas, and I’ve never had any problem as far as the gas is concerned,” Clutter said.

“Top tier gasolines are definitely recommended for newer models. Newer models have a knock sensor included in their engine, so when you start getting those performance issues, maybe a knocking or a pinning, the sensor will adjust your fuel and your air, so you don’t hear it,” Spiegel said.

AAA reports 75 percent of U.S. drivers choose a gas station based on location, while 73 percent go by price.

“If you pay less for gasoline that’s non-top tier, you may be paying a price in the long run with engine problems,” Spiegel said.

You can view the list of TOP TIER retailers AAA recommends here.


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