Make us your home page
Instagram

Is brand-name gas better?

Roy Crowley of West Palm Beach, like many motorists, tends to buy gasoline at name-brand stations, figuring it's worth a few extra cents per gallon to get a higher-quality product. But is it really?

"The price difference between one brand and another can be substantial," Crowley said. "Is there really a difference?"

The answer: It depends on whom you ask.

If you ask someone who sells Shell gas, for example, that person would point to the brand's expensive advertising campaign that touts the fact that "Shell V-Power premium gasoline boasts the highest concentration of the patented Shell Nitrogen Enriched cleaning system, with five times the amount of cleaning agents required by federal government standards."

What does that mean, and does that make it the best?

The readers of Popular Mechanics just voted Shell as the best gas for the second year in the row, so somebody is paying attention to all that nitrogen-enriched advertising.

But the answers are more complicated than a magazine poll can answer.

The impression of many motorists is that certain brands of gasoline are refined at their own refineries — that Shell gas is Shell gas from the minute it is derived from crude oil. But this is seldom the case.

In fact, gasoline is gasoline as it flows through the pipeline to a terminal, where it is picked up by various tanker trucks. That is where Shell, for instance, becomes Shell — when the additive package is mixed into the gasoline. Other brands have their own exclusive, top-secret additive packages, most of which contain the brand's proprietary formula for detergents.

But off-brand gasoline, sold by small or independent dealers, gets an additive package, too, likely a generic one developed by the company that owns the terminal.

Think of Kool-Aid: It all starts with the same water, until different packages are poured into the water to make a special flavor.

And in the case of gasoline, standard grades — from regular to premium to high octane — must all meet federal guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

There's little doubt, though, that the cheapest gas is seldom sold by the major oil companies. According to GasBuddy.com, in Crowley's West Palm Beach neighborhood, RaceTrac and Murphy USA, two relatively minor players, recently priced regular gas at a full 10 cents per gallon less than Shell.

That said, there is an amalgamation of gasoline brands beneath the "Top Tier" banner (www.toptiergas.com). Six auto manufacturers — BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen and Audi — tout Top Tier gas suppliers. Their contention is, as Top Tier says, the "current EPA minimum detergent requirements do not go far enough to ensure optimal engine performance."

So the Top Tier brands, of which Shell is one, pledge that they will exceed the EPA minimums. Top Tier claims that "many gasoline retailers provide fuels with lower-quality additive packages that can build up deposits on fuel injectors and on intake valves. Others can build up deposits in combustion chambers and may lead to intake valve sticking. These lower levels of additives can have negative impacts on engine performance and vehicle responsiveness."

So what are the Top Tier retailers? Many are regional chains; some are national. Among them: 76, Phillips 66, Chevron, QuikTrip, Conoco, Shell, Exxon, Texaco and Mobil.

Is brand-name gas better? 01/27/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Orlando Sentinel.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Miami woman, 74, admits to voter fraud. Does jail await, or will she go free?

    State Roundup

    MIAMI — An 74-year-old woman pleaded guilty Monday to filling out other people's mail-in ballots while working at Miami-Dade's elections department.

    Gladys Coego
  2. Bigger ships carry Georgia ports to record cargo volumes

    Economic Development

    SAVANNAH, Ga. — Bigger ships arriving through an expanded Panama Canal pushed cargo volumes at Georgia's seaports to record levels in fiscal 2017, the Georgia Ports Authority announced Monday.

    The Port of Savannah moved a record 3.85 million container units in fiscal 2017, the state said, benefiting from the larger ships that can now pass through an expanded Panama Canal.
  3. Dragon ride in Harry Potter section of Universal closing for new themed ride

    Florida

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019 — sending wizard fans into a guessing game with hopes for a Floo Powder Network or the maze from the Triwizard Tournament.

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge on Sept. 5 for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019. The ride, originally the Dueling Dragons roller coaster, was renamed and incorporated into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when the hugely popular area opened in 2010.
  4. Would you let your company implant a chip in you?

    Working Life

    Would you ask an employee to get a chip implanted in her hand? Sounds invasive and intrusive. But come Aug. 1, one company in Wisconsin will be giving it a try.

    Three Square Market - a developer of software used in vending machines - is offering all of its employees the option to get a microchip implanted between the thumb and forefinger. [Photo from video]
  5. Daniel Lipton resigns as artistic director of Opera Tampa

    Stage

    TAMPA — Daniel Lipton has resigned as artistic director of Opera Tampa, the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts announced.

    Daniel Lipton became the artistic director and conductor of Opera Tampa in 2012. Lipton replaced the opera's only previous director, Anton Coppola, who retired. [Times file (2012)]