Should you buy Top Tier gas? 

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Dear Driving for Dollars,
The owner’s manual of my new car recommends Top Tier gasoline, and the dealer I bought the car from told me that all the stations in my town are Top Tier. How do I know if he’s right and does it really matter if I use Top Tier gas?
— Terry

Dear Terry,
Many gasoline distributors meet the Top Tier standard, including Chevron, QuikTrip and 76. Don’t be confused with the term “Top Tier.” It doesn’t refer to the octane level. Rather, it’s a standard for the amount of detergent in the gasoline.

The Top Tier gasoline standard was created in 2004 by several automakers — BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen — after the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, reduced the minimum detergent requirements. The automakers believe engine performance could be compromised if a lower-tier gasoline is used. They believe normal driving will put more wear and tear on the engine, effectively reducing its life span.

If your vehicle owner’s manual recommends using Top Tier, this means that the manufacturer has done some research and has concluded that the higher level of detergent is better for your engine over the long term. It’s not required, but you may want to consider following the manufacturer’s recommendations. A list of Top Tier gas retailers can be found here, so it’s possible that every gas station in your town is Top Tier.

If you have a car question, e-mail it to us at Driving for Dollars.