Cheap Gas Gets The Job Done

Gasoline prices hit near-record levels recently, and the government says the average will stay above $3 all summer.

For those of you looking for a way to save on the high cost of gas, look no further than discount fuel. Karl Brauer, editor-in-chief of Edmunds.com, stopped by The Early Show Friday to talk about this affordable alternative.

The difference between name-brand and no-name gasoline is minimal. Even if you have always used brand-name gas, a permanent switch to discount gasoline is safe.

"If you run a car on discount gas for 100,000 miles," Brauer said, "you're not going to have a problem."

The difference in price is primarily due to discount gas stations ability to generate a profit away from the pump, especially at convenience stores. Mobile, however, has a lot of fuel-only stations where gas is the lone source of revenue. In addition, many bigger names answer to their shareholders who demand a higher gas price, unlike the no-names who aren't under as much pressure to maintain a high profit margin.

Brauer's chief concern among gas stations is the quality of the facility itself. Regardless of whether it is brand-name or discount gas, the maintenance of the fuel systems, gas lines and storage tanks determine the excellence of the fuel.

"You would have more of a chance of getting dirt into your car," Brauer said, "because you have a station that's not well-maintained then you would have getting damage because you are using a no-name brand versus Mobile."

The disparity between different grades of gasoline at the pump is minimal. There are some vehicles that specify premium fuel for their gas tanks and require usage of that grade in order to keep the car in warranty.

"Every car made in the last 15-plus years has a computer in it that can sense the quality of the fuel being put in the car and adjust how the engine is running to make sure it doesn't damage itself," Brauer said.

High performance vehicles, cars with a turbo or super-charged engine, should stick to premium-grade gas. These cars have a dense air-fueled mixture that is made because of the way the engine works. In order to maintain superior performance and an efficient, you should spring for the priciest grade.

Despite Shell's $35 million anti-discount fuel campaign, most cars will run smoothly on a low-grade, no-name brand of gasoline.
  • Daniel Aven

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