Branded vs. Generic Gas

First of all, I want to thank the Car Talk community for answering my question I posted earlier during the year. Thanks to your comments and opinions, every weekend I drive, unafraid, straight for 10 hours one-way (with a couple of short stops to fill-up the tank).

I would like your help on another matter. What is your opinion on the branded (Exxon, BP, Sunoco, etc.) vs. generic (Love’s, Flying J, etc.) gas. The generic gas cost a few cents less but since I use about a 100 gallons of gas a month (I am not proud of it but I have to do it to make a living and spend some time with my family), even a few cents per gallon can make a difference. Is the generic gas bad for the engine? Does it effect the mpg I can get per gallon?

Thank you!

Your kind of high mileage driving is not very demanding of gasoline additives, which are put in to keep the fuel system clean. I would go with the least expensive gas I could find at a well run (clean) service station. All gasoline has to have additives and detergents. Just tank the right grade of gas called for in your owner’s manual.

I would avoid seasonal stations, such as “Joe’s Bait and Tackle” in remote areas, since the gas (stale) as well as the tanks (leaking?) may present problems.

Costco in my areas will start selling gasoline soon, and I will be one of their first customers. In France over half of all gas sold is by supermarkets and department stores.

Generic gas is not bad for anything. Some of the “brand name” fuels have extra detergents, above and beyond those required by law, that the less expensive generics do not. I feed my cars a steady diet of Chevron or Texaco exclusively because of the Techron additive. A few extra pennies at the pump gives me piece of mind and is less expensive than new fuel injectors down the road.

It is likely that the gas you buy at most if not all of the stations in your area comes from the same bulk storage terminal. When the base gasoline is put into the tanker truck, the additives are also introduced. Then it is delivered to the stations you mentioned above. You should be more concerned with the condition of the station’s tanks and the tanker trucks that deliver their gasoline. Pay attention as you pass your local stations and see what the condition of the trucks is. If the trucks are clean on the outside, there is a better chance they are clean on the inside. Obviously, this is not always the case. If the roads are a mess from rain or snow, the tanker trucks will be dirty. The same should hold for the stations. If the seem to be in poor repair, I’d worry about the in-ground tanks.

Not sure about now or where it is where you live…but some 35+ years ago I worked at a garage that sold Generic gas. We got our gas from either (Mobil, Exxon, Shell or Hess). What would happen…is a Mobil tanker may have filled up the Mobil station down the road…but there might have been 2-3 hundred gallons left. Instead of taking the gas back to the distribution center…they’d sell it to us. Better for them and better for us.

Generic gas is fine. My brother in law in Fort Worth, TX delivers gasoline and his daily stops include both branded and generic stations; all dispensed from the same tanker.

Back in the early 1960’s when I was in graduate school, I bought my gasoline from a generic gasoline station. The gasoline was a couple of pennies less per gallon, but this station pumped a lot of gasoline. At that time, it was considered important to buy from a filling station that had a high turnover, without regard to whether the gasoline was a brand name or not. This was especially important in cold weather because a low turnover might lead to condensation in the underground tanks. There are fewer stations today but more gasoline is used, so this may not be a problem any more.

Many times branded gas is the same as generic.

Today it all starts out the same. There may be some differences in the additive package, but it is strongly regulated by the feds assuming it meets the minimum it is all a normal functioning car needs.

I have owned vehicles in the 200k range without an ounce of thought of where or what I was getting fuel excepting regular or premium(some cars needed) and never a single issue with fuel system. Furthermore I have never used any additives or had any optional cleanings of fuel system and still not an issue.

Thank you all, once again for taking the time to educate me.

I know I can always rely on the Car Talk community to lift me from the depths of my ignorance.


The gas from national chain truck stops like Love’s and Flying J are not what I would call generic. Neither is gas from national chain discount stores.

Keep in mind that these are national chains, not generic. They just might not be owned by oil companies.