Unleaded, premium unleaded, E10 the range of fuels available at the pump can be confusing – especially from a price perspective.

While the price pain of visiting the bowser has eased in recent months, many motorists remain unsure of whether it pays to fill up using premium petrol or a cheaper variation.

Motorists will often spend around 12 cents extra per litre for premium fuels but it begs the question, is it worth it?

The Australian Automobile Association’s acting chief executive James Goodwin says there’s no clear-cut answer to whether it does give you better value for the distance travelled.

“There is evidence to show that you might get more from a tank of premium but you need to do your research to see if you’re saving any money,” he says.

“You might go further in distance but the fuel itself will cost more which means you may not be always be in front when it comes to the family budget.


“My advice is do a test tank with one fuel and then with the other to see if you get any benefit,” says Goodwin.

Australia’s current fuel standard is 91 Research Octane Number which most vehicles accept but a growing number of vehicles require 95 RON premium fuel, and some even require 98 RON premium unleaded. The octane rating is a standard measure of fuel performance.

Experts say the golden rule to filling up is to always use the fuel that is recommended by the manufacturer — many European cars require the car to only be filled up using premium unleaded.


NRMA vehicle safety expert Jack Haley says there’s a simple way to work out whether premium is worth it.

“The maximum improvement by using a higher octane fuel is about one per cent per octane number so if you go from 91 to 95 the maximum reduction in fuel consumption is about four per cent,’’ he says.

“If the price difference between 91 and 95 is less than four per cent and your vehicle does experience improvement … then it is worth switching to premium.

“But given 95 fuel is about 12 per cents more a litre than 91, which is usually a lot more than four per cent, then there’s no advantage in using premium fuel.”


RACQ’s executive manager of technical and safety policy Steve Spalding says driving conditions can significantly impact petrol consumption and while premium fuel goes further it does cost more and may not always leave you better off.

“We looked at a comparison of E10 fuels to premium unleaded and we compared that across that two Holden commodores over about eight days,’’ he says.

“We found there was a fuel consumption penalty by using E10 of around two to three per cent which correlates with the expected fuel consumption increase.

“Basically E10 fuels will see a person experience higher fuel consumption when they are using an ethanol-based fuel.’’

Extracted in full from Courier Mail.