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Why a greater co$t difference between gasoline grades?

Used to be 10¢ difference between grades.

Bradley Sinclair
$2.72 Regular 85 octane
$2.86 Mid-grade 87 octane
$3.00 Premium 89 or 91 Octane

Shell
$2.81
$3.08
$3.23

Safeway grocery store
$2.71
$2.84
$2.98

Any ideas?
Thank you.

I would expect the price premium to be on a percentage basis, not an absolute dollar amount–if gas prices double, I’d expect the premium to double, too.

I have noticed that too, though it’s not every station that does this, just typically the ones that try to have the lowest prices on the block. I suspect they are lowering their profit margin for their most-sold grade of gas to keep their price low.

A lot of stations still don’t do this, and I seek them out, since I must use “mid-grade” in my vehicle. Incidentally, where I live, the cheap gas is 87 octane, mid-grade is 89, and premium is 91 to 94 octane.

Speaking of mid-range gasoline…is there really any need for it or is it just a marketing tool? In addition…I just noticed today that gas was $2.53 in my area and the E-85 was still at $2.43. I seem to remember that E-85 was a lot cheaper than regular gasoline just a few months ago. Since E-85 gets terrible fuel economy why would anyone buy it? I have 3 people in my immediate family who own Flex Fuel vehicles and they all use regular gasoline instead of E-85. My niece said that she tried E-85 a couple of times and…in her words…the fuel economy was “dismal at best.” There was a lively discussion about this at the Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone left the house later in the evening knowing about my disgust for ethanol. My job was done.

@missleman: Re. midgrade, I have a tuner for one of my vehicles. When I’m in the mood to do so, I run a “high octane” tune, which gives me better performance and driveability, at the expense of having to use higher-octane fuel. I can also use the data logging function to monitor the knock sensors. With mid-grade, I get less knock events, though I typically run a 91-octane tune and 91 octane gas accordingly. (knocks are obviously not good) So I suppose mid grade does have its place, appropriately situated between low and high, for motors that are set up to require it.

Of course in winter there’s little reason to have extra torque on tap, so I dial it back. Winter mileage is miserable enough as it is.

With mid-grade, I get less knock events, though I typically run a 91-octane tune and 91 octane gas accordingly. (knocks are obviously not good)

How bad are they?

I ask not as a punchline to a joke, but as a legitimate tuning question. I used to hear frequently that light spark knock under heavy acceleration was begnign, and a sign that you had it "dialed-in." Heck, if you NEVER experienced knock, you were being too cautious in your timing advance!

Haven't heard it lately, though.

Speaking of mid-range gasoline…is there really any need for it or is it just a marketing tool?

You might remember that mid-grade came about just around the same time that leaded regular was outlawed. What’s a gas station supposed to do with an empty 10,000 gallon tank and all the plumbing and dispensers? Find a product to sell out of them. I think it was a smart move.

As to the original question about the larger difference between grades now when traditionally there was a .10 spread between products, regular is priced to be competitive with the grocery store selling gas around the corner and the station across the street. Premium is priced higher because the guy driving the $80000 dual turbo high-performance machine that requires 92 octane doesn’t care what it costs.

I used to have a car that would ping occasionally on regular but not on midgrade. Buying a tank of midgrade was a lot less bother than filling halfway with regular and then topping off with premium.

Mid grade gas does not take a separate holding tank…the pump mixes the high and low octanes .
My 80 Bronco would ping . mostly going up long grades at speed and wide open throttle.
I continued to use the fuel grade the manual said and the carb was adjusted as good as they could.
– it blew a hole throught the top of a piston ! —

Answer the call of the ping to avoid future troubles.
It may take a while to rear its ugly head, but pinging is causing damage the whole time you hear it.

The price difference I have noticed too.
Just because they CAN, i think.
When the overall price is higher , the prices of the different grades are closer to each other
another oddity I notice here.
When the price is higher…the price difference between high and low priced stations seems wider .
When the price is lowe the same stations are closer together in price.

With essentially the same ingredients in slightly different ratios and with subsidies for oxygenates IMHO, it’s merchandizing and there is NO reason for them to be differently priced. Maybe higher octane requirements may be for more expensive cars and often, you charge those who are willing and able to pay. I would not be surprised.
Do you really want a higher octane fuel with more ethanol.

Higher octane is more expensive to make, how much is debatable. As show by the recent huge price drops, if a company could gain market share by cutting prices, they would. How else does one explain the $0.40/gallon drop in the last few weeks?

Here, premium has been $0.30/gallon more than regular, for quite a while.

How much more is going to cost for an additional additive that is subsidized.

Why do they charge this way? Because they can and people will pay it. No more complicated than that.

Oh and that $0.40 drop in the last 2 weeks is because the price of a barrel of oil dropped to $66/bbl and RBOB gas futures dropped to $1.90 a gallon. RBOB is reflects the wholesale price of a gallon of gas.

Exactly. Kind of goes along with the idea that luxury vehicles more often require or recommend higher octane gasoline. “Them” that has, are “them” that spends. And, because higher octane fuels are suppose to deliver higher levels of performance, you are suppose to pay dearly for it. Why get better gas mileage for the same money. Of course you have to pay more, if only because it makes “cents” for the energy corporation.

Yeah, gas is actually down over $1.00/gallon since July, $0.50/gallon since October. All driven by crude price drops, of course.

We are making much more gas then we use. The US has shown decrease in (oil consumption) use, gas in particular. That would have some thing to do with it. Sure, oil price may account for 65% of the price of gasoline but lower demand is important too.

That too, but most of it’s oil price.

Of course. 65% is the greater factor. But, it is not insignificant that in the last few years, one of the largest roll outs ever of smaller or lighter and more fuel efficient cars and trucks with newer power plants which are the primary users of gasoline, has occurred. IMHO, the last thing we should do is roll back CAFE standards as a reward for dropping oil/gas prices. The drop is an incidental occurrence when in realty everyone should be using fewer fossil fuels. That drives technology toward renewable resources and it’s inevitable that as that lower fuel prices, the cars and trucks it most directly impacts, iCE powered cars, are the most affected.

Having higher prices for premium fuels is an adjunct marketing ploy in the same way doing any thing additional cost money. If 99% of the cars came standard one way and 1% wanted it the other, they would pay more even if the actual ingredients or parts were no more expensive. That IMHO, is what premium fuel is all about where a subsidized additive is used instead of lead. It cost money to add water too if an ingredient came without. That’s why frozen juice cost less then juice made from concentrate. The packaging and task cost more. The ingredient added cost is inconsequential to the marketing of the higher option; in this case, premium gasoline.

But you are right…anyone threatens Middle East oil, the price will take a jump. That 65% is that important too. It’s not insignificant too that Oil production has surged as well. Ie. Iraq and elsewhere.

A big reason for the crude drop is US oil production increase, combined with flat/lower consumption and weakness in world (EU and China, in particular) economies. Oil price drop accounts for about $0.84 of the $1.00/gallon drop.

One of the main reason luxury cars need premium is that so many of them are European. In Europe all gasoline is higher in octane than it is in the US, with European regular not far from US premium. They also measure octane differently, so you can’t compare the ratings. Engines there are designed with these higher octane fuels in mind, so most require premium in the US.

Luxury cars from other parts of the world often share engines with more pedestrian models and most would run just fine on regular gas if set up to do so. Some of those just ‘recommend’ premium fuel. In some cases they require it even though anyone who knows the car knows the same basic engine is used in cheaper cars, but admitting it would run on regular fuel would make it seem less special. I have in mind the many Lexuses using engines right out of a Camry and the Infinitis using one or another variant of the ubiquitous Nissan VQ V6. And many others. At least GM drops in a Corvette engine when it wants a high-performance Cadillac.