Most gas in the United States comes from the same few refineries, where different brands of gasoline are created as they are pumped into the fuel tankers, as opposed to individual retail facilities. Dr. Edward Murphy of the American Petroleum Institute explains that “base gas is a freely traded commodity that must meet certain government specifications. It flows through common pipelines into commingled storage tanks” (Blumberg). Although brands of gasoline have major differences, those differences are not due to origin or refining process, since they are processed from crude oil into gasoline together. The difference in the brands comes late in the process, when additives are combined with the gasoline upon being placed into the fuel tanker trucks, and this is the point when the brands actually become different, “The major brands spend R-and-D money on patented additives, which they add to the basic gas” (Blumberg). The only difference between any brand of gasoline is the additive package that is mixed into the fuel before the tanker trucks even leave the facility.

Since the 1990’s, all brands of gas in the United States are unleaded and have a minimum level of detergents added to fuel as required by federal regulations. Even unbranded gas is treated, albeit less so, “All gasoline has additives. For unbranded gasoline’s, like those sold at low cost outlets, the additive is the generic version that meets minimum federal standards, and the ratio is about a third of a gallon of additive to every 1,000 gallons of gasoline” (Blumberg). Even the generic non-branded gasolines have minimum levels of additives, but many consumers, automotive manufacturers, and gasoline companies feel that the minimum is not sufficient for todays advanced automobile engines.

Most consumer vehicles are designed to run on Regular unleaded 87 Octane gasoline, and “only about 10 percent of today’s cars need a mid-grade (89 octane) or premium (91 octane or higher) gasoline” (Consumer Reports). Drivers should always check their owner’s manual, but usually regular gas is what commuter vehicles are designed for, and using higher octane gasoline will not improve performance, fuel economy, or prevent maintenance. According to an article in The New York Times, “Generally, the least expensive gasoline available is the best choice, unless your car manufacturer states otherwise” (Richtel). However, using the wrong octane rating, or gasoline blends with lower levels of additives can sometimes cause reduced power, lower gas mileage, and increase fuel deposits on internal parts that damages the vehicle’s engine. When the correct octane rating for a vehicle is known, the only decision left to the consumer is which brand of gas to buy. Top Tier standard gasoline brands are listed at the end of this report that have been independently tested and verified to contain more of the beneficial fuel additives and cleaning detergents that boost engine power, improve fuel economy and prevent engine wear and damage.