What Type of Fuel is Best?

With the amount of cars and petrol choices out there these days, deciding on the best fuel to use for your vehicle can be confusing. With inflated petrol prices, not to mention rising car insurance premiums and yearly registration and maintenance costs, running a car can add up.

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Photo: darkmatter

So from unleaded, diesel and ethanol blends, how do you choose a petrol that will work with your engine, while also saving you some money? Here, we explain the difference between different petrols and give you the low-down on the different fuel types – and how they might work with your vehicle.

What’s the difference?

You’re probably wondering what the main difference is between each fuel type. Generally speaking, some fuels have a higher octane rating (or RON) than others, making them more expensive.

Regular unleaded petrol has a rating of about 91RON, while premium unleaded is rated at 95RON. The octane rating will vary according to the type of petrol it is and the manufacturer (e.g. BP, Caltex, Shell etc.).

How do you choose?

When it comes to newer cars, it’s considered that the higher the octane rating, the better the engine performance. For older cars, fuel companies will often argue that higher octane petrols are better for engine health, though they might not enhance the engine’s performance.

Depending on your car make and model, you’ll need to use a petrol that has the minimum RON rating for your engine. To find this out, check your fuel consumption label and/or car manual. You can always use a petrol that’s higher than your minimum requirements, of course, but it will cost you more.

Unleaded

Unleaded petrol has a rating of 91RON and the most common vehicles are designed to run on unleaded petrol. However, unleaded petrol is slowly being phased out by the NSW Government with the aim of pushing motorists to switch to premium unleaded or E10 fuels. While some drivers argue that their vehicles have had a much larger fuel consumption with E10, the NRMA predicts that owners shouldn’t see more than a 3% rise in consumption when using E10.

Premium Unleaded

Premium Unleaded petrol carries a higher RON rating of 95-96 and the majority of cars on the road will work well with Premium Unleaded, since it has a fairly standard octane level.

Diesel

Diesel is often used regularly in large cars such as trucks, four-wheel drives and utes which require better performance. Diesel is also good for large vehicles that need to travel long distances, but for short trips other petrol types are more suitable.

Ethanol E10

While ethanol is thought to be more environmentally friendly, it only works with certain types of engines. Using E10 petrol in a car that is not suited for it can lead to engine damage and probably a trip to the mechanic. If your car is E10 friendly, that’s great – but you’ll need to note that since E10 burns faster than petrol, it can cost you more money in volume over the long term.

Ethanol E85

E85 fuel is much rarer than E10 and harder to source, especially since only a few vehicle models can take this type of petrol. Note that if your car is suitable to E10, it won’t necessarily mean you can use E85, though cars that will work with E85 can use E10 or unleaded petrols. Again, check your car’s fuel consumption guides to determine which ethanol petrol is best.

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