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July 07, 2016
AAA Study: Not All Gasoline Created Equal
Many motorists choose a gas station based on the location or price, but a recent AAA study reveals there is a difference in fuel quality depending on where you purchase your gas.

One-third of retailers nationwide sell gasolines that meet TOP TIER™ standards among all octane grades. Gasolines that earn the TOP TIER™ designation are marketed as containing enhanced, engine-cleaning detergent additives that promote optimal vehicle performance by minimizing engine deposits.

A full list of retailers that sell TOP TIER gasoline can be found at http://www.TopTierGas.com/retailers.

AAA's independent laboratory testing compared gasolines that meet TOP TIER™ standards with gasoline brands that do not participate in the automaker-backed program. Among brands tested, non-TOP TIER gasolines caused 19 times more engine deposits than TOP TIER™ brands after just 4,000 miles of simulated driving. Such carbon deposits are known to reduce fuel economy, increase emissions and negatively impact vehicle performance, particularly on newer vehicles.

“AAA was surprised to learn the extent to which detergent additives impact gasoline quality,” revealed Kevin Bakewell, Senior Vice President, Chief Public Affairs Officer, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “This study does not suggest that using non-TOP TIER fuel will damage your vehicle. However, results clearly show that engines running on TOP TIER gasoline will operate at their optimal level.”

EPA Mandate

In response to increasing levels of carbon deposits in modern engine designs, the Environmental Protection Agency mandated a minimum level of detergent for all gasoline sold in the United States in 1996. However, some automakers believe the minimum does not go far enough to ensure optimal vehicle performance and their ability to meet increasingly-stringent fuel economy and emissions requirements. The TOP TIER™ program and performance standard were developed to guarantee that program participants’ gasoline meets stricter targets for engine cleanliness.

Attitudes Toward Gasoline

Despite the fact that two-thirds of U.S. drivers believe there is a difference in quality of gasoline sold by different gas stations, a AAA survey reveals that Americans value convenience and price over quality when it comes to selecting a gas station.
 
  • Three-quarters of U.S. drivers choose a gas station based on location (75 percent) or price (73 percent).
  • Nearly one-third (29 percent) of U.S drivers choose a gas station based on a rewards program.
  • Only 12 percent of U.S. drivers select a gas station based on whether the gasoline contains an enhanced detergent package.
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of U.S. drivers do not regularly buy gasoline that contains an enhanced detergent additive.
  • Men (44 percent) are more likely than women (26 percent) to regularly buy a gasoline that contains an enhanced detergent package, as are baby boomers (41 percent) compared to millennials (32 percent).
“TOP TIER gasoline is widely available and averages three cents more per gallon than what you might find at a retailer that does not sell this gasoline standard,” continued Bakewell. “Fortunately, consumers can reverse some engine deposits simply by switching gasoline brands. After a few thousand miles with TOP TIER gasoline, performance issues like rough idling or hesitation during acceleration can often be resolved.”

About the Study

For testing purposes, AAA selected TOP TIER and non-TOP TIER gasolines from a southern Texas market that represents the type of gasoline sold across the majority of the United States. To measure intake valve and combustion chamber deposits, AAA engaged the services of an independent International Standards Organization 17025 certified engine testing lab to perform an American Society for Testing and Materials standard test on fuels.

To evaluate consumer gasoline preferences, AAA contracted with a national research company to perform a telephone survey of 1,002 adults (18 years of age and older) living in the continental United States. Survey results are an accurate representation of the total continental U.S. population, 18 years of age and older, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

About The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, travel, insurance and financial services offerings to approximately 9 million members across 11 states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with nearly 55 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety.


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