Car ownership is expensive. The price of the car is usually in the tens of thousands. Maintenance can run you thousands of dollars, and that’s all before you put in the constant cost of gasoline.

When you pull up to the pump you are presented with three to four different fuel grade options. You can usually disregard diesel, as it has a specific purpose. But, what of the other three?

Does it Matter?

Very much so, yes.

But also, not really.

Let me explain. Premium gas costs more money. It also has the name premium. That denotes a level of quality higher than the regular gas options. Since better is usually better, that could lead people to believe they should splurge on the more expensive gas to make their car run better.

The problem is that it only makes certain cars work better. Premium gas won’t damage a regular car, it just has no additional benefits to regular gas. You’d just be spending more money.

At the same time, regular gas TYPICALLY won’t hurt a car that recommends premium. The recommendation usually comes from the type of engine the car has. Some engines can maximize fuel efficiency with premium gas in was other cars can’t.

However, if your car has a turbocharger or is just generally old and heavy, using regular gas can lead to problems. If the person you bought the vehicle from doesn’t tell which gas is recommended, it will usually be in the owner’s manual, or printed on a sticker on the inside of either the driver or front passenger door. Failing all of that, google works wonders.

Is It Worth It?

Not really. The additional fuel economy benefits of using premium gas, even where recommended, don’t actually offset the additional charge. Sure, you have to buy a little less gas. But, since you’re paying more for it, the best case scenario is a wash.

If you want to save a little money, your best bet is only using premium gas when it is actually required. Knowing the difference between recommended and required for your particular vehicle is a great question for either your mechanic or car dealer.

When Buying a New Car

Should you take into account fuel recommendations when buying a new car? Again, it usually ends up not mattering very much. Most of the vehicles that recommend or require premium gas are higher end luxury vehicles, high-performance sports cars, or mammoth SUVs. If you’re buying one of those, you’re not likely to quibble over an additional 30-60 cents a gallon.

It can, however, be important when buying older used vehicles. Older cars are more temperamental and prone to damage if not cared for in particular (sometimes outdated) ways. It’s not a problem you’re likely to run into, seeing as there are fewer and fewer cars on the road from that era. But, it’s still something you should keep an eye out for.

The money you save from not buying premium gas probably isn’t enough to change your life. At the same time, why spend more than you have to?