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Is Supermarket Fuel Bad For Your Car?

By Nigel Graber | July 17, 2017


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The facts about own brand fuel

Is Supermarket Fuel Bad For Your Car?
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Supermarket fuel. It’s cheaper, therefore it must be worse, right? It must be made with liquidised pork-belly fat and the sweat ducts of a dead goat.

Well, here’s the news. It is. Just kidding. Truth is, all petrol and diesel sold in the UK must meet British Standards. That means that filling up at Tesco or Asda is just as safe for your engine as doing so at a Shell or Esso garage.

Every petrol station uses a standard ‘base’ fuel. It all comes from the same UK refineries. So, is there any difference at all? Well, different petrol retailers use different additives before it hits your tank. Some drivers swear by them. Others just swear at the idea of supermarket fuel.

Check out the subject on any UK motoring forum online and there’ll be a bunch of blokes with names like GatsoBuzzSaw and 660bhp telling you that supermarket fuel is the juice of Lucifer. In fact, no fewer than 40% of UK drivers hold this view.

The RAC and the AA both agree that petrol and diesel fuel quality is governed by the same European standard, wherever it’s sold. So Lord knows where these people get their ideas from. Maybe these are the folk who firmly believe the Royal Family are shape-shifting lizards or that Jay-Z is a time-travelling vampire.

Around half of the petrol and diesel that’s currently powering UK cars comes from supermarket pumps. I’m guessing that means that if it were in some way defective, our cars would have turned into warty toads by now. 

All of which leads us onto the concept of standard fuels and ‘super’ versions. These will cost you around 12p per litre more. So, they better be good. But are they?

Firstly, what’s the difference between premium and super fuels? Standard 95-octane unleaded often comes badged as ‘premium unleaded’. That’s not to be confused with super fuels, which weigh in at 97, 98 or 99-octane.

They come with fancy names like Synergy Supreme Plus and Momentum 99. It’s like spending £6.50 on a bottle of wine, instead of your standard £4.99 (a 2006 bottle of V-Power Nitro+ is a particularly fine tipple, by the way). And, much like the vino, the effect might be the same, but it’s a smoother experience along the way.

It seems these fuels do actually make a difference. Some instruction manuals, especially on performance cars, even advise you to use 98-octane fuel. 

We asked a man with a very high forehead and a white coat about this. He told us the octane rating of petrol refers to how efficiently it burns. The higher the figure, the greater the efficiency. At 99, it burns like a returning vindaloo.

Super fuels also usually feature a nicer additive mix for better performance or economy. So, should you go for super fuels in your car? We suggest reading the manual (you’ll find it in the glovebox, next to those Smints that date back to 2013).

If your manufacturer thinks it’s a wise idea, you probably should, too. 

But with no scientific evidence to suggest that supermarket fuel is inferior to its brand-name equivalent, we see no reason why you shouldn’t fill up when you get your groceries. 

Let’s face it, fuel is dear enough, thanks to the government raking in taxation, which it spends on vital public-sector projects, like organic biscuits and motivational magicians.

See you at Tesco.


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