Is Top Tier gas better for your car?

AAA, Consumer Reports recommend using Top Tier gas even if it costs a bit more

With gas costing more than $3 a gallon, it’s no wonder drivers look for the cheapest station. But, auto experts said using Top Tier gas is worth it in the long run, even if it costs a few pennies more per gallon.

SAN ANTONIO – With gas costing more than $3 a gallon, it’s no wonder drivers look for the cheapest station. But, auto experts said using Top Tier gas is worth it in the long run, even if it costs a few pennies more per gallon.

Ask drivers what they look for when they need to fill up, and you get similar answers.

“Price matters to me,” said Debbie Bermea.

“To be honest, I go anywhere I see better prices,” said Christina Rodriguez.

Price matters, but so does quality, according to auto experts.

That’s where Top Tier gas comes in. You see the sticker or logo at Exxon, Shell, Valero, Chevron -- the big brand names.

So what is it?

First, it is not the same as premium gas. That has to do with octane.

“Top Tier gas -- it’s got a greater level of detergent than what is mandated by the EPA,” said AAA’s Josh Zuber.

All gasoline must meet the EPA’s minimum level of detergents. But, when automakers wanted higher levels to better suit their newer engines, Top Tier status was born.

“It’s a step above your mom-and-pop, no-name gas station,” said Mike Quincy, auto tester for Consumer Reports. “It’s better quality gas, according to a study done by AAA.”

That 2016 study got surprising results.

“Testing by AAA found that not all gasoline is created equal,” Zuber said. “Those tests show that quality gas keeps engines 19 times cleaner.”

The tests showed more carbon deposits on the valves and fuel injectors and that they hurt car performance, increase emissions and hurt fuel economy.

As for price, they found Top Tier gas costs, on average, three cents more per gallon. It’s worth it, according to AAA and Consumer Reports.

But, Top Tier doesn’t have to cost more. QT sells it. So does Costco, which often has some of the lowest fuel prices.

This does not mean that non-Top Tier gas is bad gas. It meets EPA standards. Quincy says it’s fine to use on occasion.

But both AAA and Consumer Reports recommend drivers use Top Tier gas if possible.

To find out which retailers sell Top Tier gas, https://www.toptiergas.com/licensed-brands/. The pumps should also be labeled with a Top Tier sticker.


About the Authors:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.