Motorists with vehicles requiring the use of premium gasoline have likely noticed that the fuel has seen a jump in price against regular over the past few years, and it may continue to get worse.
It's something this author has noted as well, having two vehicles that both require premium- a late model motorcycle requiring at least 92 octane, as well as a turbocharged Mazda, requiring at least 91 octane gasoline. I remember the good days when the gap was less than 20 cents per gallon for premium- meaning premium was less than 20 cents more than regular. Those days seem long over, at least according to GasBuddy data.
While some retailers remain at that magical 20-cent differential that fuels my loyalty to their station, many retailers have begun increasing the gap between regular and premium on to motorists that are stuck with vehicles requiring the higher octane liquid.
A couple years ago, I reached out to a pricing manager with a major travel chain who indicated that wholesale costs of premium had increased and that their organization raised the gap to counter the rising price of premium fuels. It seems that many stations are now jumping on that bus.
A quick glance at GasBuddy data below shows that based on numbers averaged across all 50 U.S. states, the gap between regular and premium gasoline has widened from 23c/gal in 2008 to the current average gap of 35c/gal, leaving some motorists paying 12c/gal more when bench marked against regular gasoline than they were a few years ago.
GasBuddy Data (c)
The good times do appear over, especially as premium fuel becomes less of a staple at the pump as sales decline of the fuel. According to Energy Information Administration numbers, premium fuel amounted to just 8.3% of all motor gasoline sales, an 85% drop from the month of peak premium consumption in December of 1988. Such a massive decline in the consumption of premium fuel has likely lead refineries to produce less of the fuel as consumption has been curbed. The drop in production likely means premium is becoming more of a specialty fuel and subject to additional pricing volatility as less supply is produced.
So what's there for motorists required to use premium? Flock to the stations that still offer the 20-cent per gallon differential between regular and premium. That's what I do- utilize GasBuddy to locate the cheapest premium. In my experience, retail chains tend to offer better pricing on premium gasoline than independently owned stations, so keep that in mind. Other than that, be ready for what the future holds- higher prices for premium gasoline.