Report: $2.1 billion wasted on premium gas last year

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COLUMBIA - Americans wasted $2.1 billion dollars last year on premium gas for vehicles only requiring regular grade fuel, according to a new report from the American Automobile Association.

In the report released on Tuesday, AAA found that 16.5 million Americans had used premium grade gasoline when their cars only required regular, despite the fact no benefits could be found from doing so.

AAA officials said the use of premium gasoline could be due to drivers not consulting their owner's manual.

What gasoline qualifies as regular or premium is established by the octane rate. For example, 87 octane is considered regular grade gasoline, whereas 91 is considered premium.

A service Manager at Bob McCosh Chevrolet dealership, Mike Mountjoy, said people need to fill their cars with the gasoline grade recommended by the manufacturer, or run the risk of the damaging the car.

"If its recommended 87 octane, just run the 87 octane then," Mountjoy said. "You may get a little better fuel economy with the higher octane, but it can also create problems, especially in the winter months, when you get into the winter blend fuels. It can create problems starting when its cold, delayed starts, things like that."

While drivers unsure of what gasoline grade they should be using can contact their local mechanics or dealerships for advice, according to Mountjoy, the quickest way to determine what is needed is to refer to owner's manual.

"Get out the owners manual, look and see where it has, 'cause it'll have information about fuel and octane rates. If it says minimum octane rating of 87, thats what you need to use," Mountjoy said.

Columbia resident and driver Rosalee Gross, who refers to her owner's manual whenever she gets a new car, said the findings are disturbing.

"Gasoline to me is expensive, we need, it's something that we need, it's a need," Gross said. "So people are already spending money on gasoline, and if they didn't have to buy the more expensive gasoline, then I think that's tragic. That's a tragedy that their spending so much, that they could of just, you know, they could have just used the regular one." 

According to AAA's website, the current average price for a gallon of regular grade gasoline is $1.99 and a gallon a premium is $2.44. This time last year the regular grade was $2.06 and premium was $2.52.