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Premium fuel needed?

I’ve been searching the market for a few months in hopes of purchasing a new vehicle. After ample research, I have landed on a Nissan Altima (preferred new). However, given the packages I want I have to save 6-10k for a down payment or buy used (I am trading a 1996 Jeep Cherokee 4x4; trade value <$1,000).

I just came upon a used 2008 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL with 26k on the odometer. I have one concern. It is recommended for 91 AKI (aka premium fuel) in the appropriate manual. I am leaning towards not buying this vehicle just on this point.

What advice is to be given on buying a vehicle knowing the manual states premium preferred, but only using regular?

[i]  It is recommended for 91 AKI (aka premium fuel) in the appropriate manual.[/i]

[i] I am leaning towards not buying this vehicle just on this point. [/i] 

Why?  You don't like premium?  Think premium is too expensive?  ???  

When the owner's manual specifies Premium recommended, but does not specify it as a requirement, it means using regular will likely give you less power and lower mileage.  Using regular will will not hurt the car.

Having sold many a Nissan in my day, I can tell you that the VQ V6 is more sensitive to octane than any modern engine I’ve ever encountered. It will run on regular but the hit in power and mileage is quite noticeably. My butt dyno puts the loss of power at around 20-30 HP and you’ll lose about 3 MPG as well. There are some cars that recommend premium and if you put in regular there isn’t a huge difference in performance/economy. This isn’t one of those cars. With that said, just because a car premium, that’s no reason to totally dismiss it. IMHO if you’re having reservations about a car because you’re not sure if you can swing the extra $2-$3 a fill up, then perhaps you be looking more along the lines of a Fit, Corolla, or Focus.

How about the Altima with a 4? It’ll still be quite peppy, cheaper, get better mpgs ($4 gas is here in some areas), and uses regular. win/win/win/…well, you get the idea.

If this 2008 Altima is really in top notch shape and you can get it for a good price, the savings over a new car will pay the difference between regular and premium for a lot of fill-ups. Our secretary bought a Mini-Cooper and uses premium fuel. She says that the mileage is so good that she doesn’t mind paying the difference in price.

In operating a car, gasoline is way down on the cost per mile. Depreciation, interest payments on the loan, insurance are usually at the top of the list.

I would prefer to buy the 4 cylinder engine, however I came upon this 3.5SL for 12.5k. There is no record of accident on car fax. It deal sounds too good to be true.

Given the arguements presented here and a few other forums on Altima’s and premium fuel (or the lack of causing significant knocking/pinging), I am leaning towards waiting a bit longer for a used vehicle to pop-up that has a 4 cylinder. A big part of what is flavoring this decision is that used car loans typically have higher interest rates than new cars. So I can wait and save. Watch for a 4 cylinder at a great price or if enough time passes I can buy a new 4 cylinder with a low promotional APR.

Altima’s are currently being offered for 0% for 60 months.
It just isn’t going to get any better than that.


If the manual says “recommended” and not “required”, then you won’t cause any damage by using regular. However, be aware that you might get lower fuel economy, as a result of how the engine adjusts for the regular gas. This might cancel out some of the savings, all of the savings, or even more.

Even if you happen to get the same fuel economy, the price difference is probably less than $200 a year. I wouldn’t dismiss a car that I otherwise liked just because of this amount.