Not so super fuel

Posted on: 26 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

There is little justification for using the more expensive “super fuels” at the pumps.


Fuel companies make bold claims for ‘super fuels’, but Which? Car reveals they don’t save you money, improve your car’s performance, or save the environment as advertised.

When you pull into your local garage to fill up the car for the week, a long journey to the seaside or to just top-up the tank for a trip to the shops you’ll find “super fuels” promising better value from their pumps.

Super fuels are more expensive than their standard counterparts and advertisers often claim they can optimise a car’s economy and increase power.

Three super fuels were tested; Shell’s V-Power, Tesco’s Super Unleaded and BP’s Ultimate Diesel against standard fuels, and the results found little justification for using them.

Each super fuel had only a marginal effect on the emissions of measured pollutants, seemingly putting paid to environmental claims. To cut a car’s emissions, it’s better to drive less and more economically, rather than switch fuels.

There may be benefits to using super fuels in the long-term as they include detergents to improve engine longevity. However, any break-even point in terms of reduced repair bills could take many years to reach.

Testing Shell’s V-Power, Which? Found it gave a 1.6 Ford Focus a marginal power increase. However, filling the car on this petrol for 12,000 miles will cost you £115 more than using Shell’s standard petrol while Tesco’s Super Unleaded actually decreased the power of the Focus.

A hi-tech 1.4 TSI VW Golf engine responded well to Shell’s V-Power, but there was little to choose between super fuels and ordinary petrol on economy and emissions.

BP’s Ultimate diesel actual decreased the economy and performance of a 1.5 Renault Megane diesel making it the ‘super fuel’ furthest from the marketing claims in the Which? test.

“For many cars it’s a waste of money paying over the odds for so-called ‘super fuels’,” says Which? Car editor Richard Headland.

“The standard fuels we tested were all up to the job, whether from a major fuel brand or a supermarket. There’s no conclusive evidence to show that super fuels are better for your car in the long run – so in a time of high oil prices, why would you choose to pay more?”

How To Save Money On Fuel

  • Shop around and use the www.petrolprices.com website. It’s free to use and after registering will tell you the cheapest filling stations near you.
  • Use supermarket filling stations. The supermarket petrol Which? tested was equivalent to Esso and Shell 95 Ron fuels in performance and economy terms. Supermarkets also often offer incentives such as 5p a litre off fuel if you spend £50 in store.
  • -Don’t panic buy. Fill up when you still have a couple of gallons left, so you have to choose a cheaper filling station.
  • Drive more economically. Keep your car and tyres in good nick, don’t carry excessive weight and keep a close eye on the road ahead to avoid stopping unnecessarily when approaching lights or roundabouts.
  • To measure your car’s economy when using different fuels, try the free fuel calculator on the Which? website at http://www.which.co.uk/advice/fuel-calculator.

What are tips to save money on fuel? Do you use ‘super fuels’ when filling up?

Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below. Alternatively, share your thoughts with other readers in the 50connect forums.

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