Premium gas, is it worth it?

SEATTLE -- As usual, the closer we get to summer the higher gas prices get. Right now, the average price for a gallon of unleaded in Seattle is nearly three bucks! So if you prefer premium gas, that means you're paying 20 to 50 cents more than that per gallon! That can add up to be a lot of money.

Some car owners argue premium gas helps horsepower, lowers gas mileage and even cuts down on emissions. So Q13 asked the folks at PEMCO Insurance, is paying more for premium gas really worth it?

The short answer: "For the most part, most people can use regular gas," Craig Kehrberg, a senior product manager from PEMCO said.

Most people, but not ALL people.

So first, let's explain what premium gas really is. Kehrberg said, contrary to what people most people think, premium is not about quality or additives. It's about octane. (Those numbers you see on the gas pump.) Premium fuel has higher octane.

"Octane is really used to help in the ignition process of your engine," Kehrberg said. "It doesn't fire as quickly. So it prevents knocking, if your engine were to knock."

For certain older cars, turbocharged cars and high performance cars, premium IS better. The owner's manual will tell you that. But, according to AAA, that's only counts for 16 percent of vehicles on the road. And in the last year, nearly 17 million drivers used premium grade gas when they didn't need to!

Recent tests by AAA also found, there is no benefit to using premium if your car requires regular. Most engines simple can't take advantage of the higher octane rating.

"[For] Cars that require regular gas, premium isn't going to hurt it, but it's not going to do much for you anyway," Kehrberg agreed. "You just may be paying extra for that premium gas."

So, premium gas does not equal better if you car doesn't require it. If you're looking for higher quality fuel, Kehrberg recommends saving cash and opting for 'top tier' fuel.

"There is whats known as top tier gas, which has extra additives and detergents that help clean your engine and limit some of the emissions that come from your car as well," Kehrberg said.

Top tier gas is easy to find. Most big name gas stations carry it. You'll often see it advertised on top of the pump as well.