Cheap Fuel Brands - Any Difference?

The recent hike in fuel prices made me start going again for cheaper fuel brands (In WA: United, Vibe, Puma etc) which are consistently cheaper the other brands, and the more the fuel costs, the more the difference between brands is noticeable.
I own a VW Golf TSI which requires premium ULP and, personally, I don't see any performance deficit compared to more expensive and famous brands such as (Caltex, Shell, BP etc), however I had people telling me that their car runs better and longer when using premium brands, which sounds to me a lot like a myth.

What's your experience, OzBargainers? Is there some truth or is this just a myth and all fuels are basically the same? And if so, why people just don't use only cheap fuel that can save you hundreds in the long run, and instead keep refuelling at places like BP that are consistently selling the same product at a higher price? Using cheaper brand fuel seems like a no brainer… Is there a catch?

P.S. let me know if there's another post on this - had a look but could not find one - and I'll delete.

Poll Options

  • 92
    All fuel brands are basically the same
  • 13
    My car runs better with the more expensive brands


  • It's not about the brands. Base fuel is largely the same across all. The difference is the octane level and in the additives that something like Shell V-Power adds. Whether or not they make any real tangible difference though, no idea, beyond anecdotal/subjective views.

    Shell V-Power is formulated with powerful cleaning agents to help prevent the build-up of gunk on key fuel system components, such as fuel injectors and inlet valves*.

    The same cleaning agents help to remove gunk that has been left behind by other fuels, so your engine can burn fuel more efficiently and more completely*.

    Shell V-Power contains Friction Modification Technology (FMT), developed to reduce friction in the engine so it can operate more efficiently and deliver greater power to the wheels*.

    FMT is also designed to form a protective film on metal surfaces, decreasing the rate of wear and corrosion that can adversely affect precision fuel system components*.

    Real benefits or marketing garbage? No idea.

  • +2

    Wait you don't fuel at Costco?

    • +6

      Nah, there's one in the whole region and would take me way too long to get there just to save a few quids, not enough to justify the trip (time and fuel to get there)

      • bucks!

        quid… damn brit!

        • +2

          lol I'm Italian, go my region we call them "schei" (prononced skei)

      • to save a few quids

        Do you mean squids ?

  • +4

    It's a good bet your petrol is all coming from Singapore.

    • Most retailers (eg AMPOL , Shell/Viva….) are importing finished products from Singapore (plus a little crude for their BrisVegas/G/town refineries) so basically all the same base and just mixed in the tanks to make the various "flavours". So effectively no difference except for their profit margin!

  • +2

    I prefer United (for the Pie Face availability).

    BTW, I think very few people on here will be able to truthfully choose option 1 in your poll. We may have read articles or have some second-hand knowledge, but unless we have analysed the fuel (and have the skills to do that) it is just an understanding at best.

    • +1

      I count my knowledge as first hand, but somewhat aged perhaps.
      Years ago was part of a major spill response from a refinery - (remember when we had refineries).
      Atmosphere was understandably tense. The company was getting stick about it from environmental folk and one said they would lobby everyone to stop buying their brand.
      Everyone literally cracked up! Because every brand in the Capital city used their fuel……
      So that makes me pretty sure they are all the same.

      RON level aside, The other thing that amuses me is when folk say their car needs the best fuel available ‘cos their engine is so ‘special’… OZ fuel standards are pretty well third world because our gov CGAS about air quality.

      Pie availability is more verify able than the mythical ‘additives’. Personally favour the what’s cheapest for my vehicle.

    • I work in the petroleum industry I would not get petrol from United even if it was free.

      • +4

        Why? And please go into some detail.

  • -2

    InB4: "I OnLy FiLL uP aT *insert random brand* bEcAuSe I aLwAyZ gEt bEtTeR eCoNoMy aNd MoAr PoWaH. iT cLeAnZ wHiLe I dRiVe"


    "StArT uSiNg 98. YoUsE WiLL gEt hEaPz mOaR MiLeZ fRoM eVeRy LiTrE…"

    • +1

      nah br0 u have it all wrong
      get 98, remove the 2 thats bad and GET FULL POWER 100!!

      broom broom

      • they stopped selling leaded petrol so you can't get 100 anymore.

        • E85 is 105RON
          Ethanol/Methanol is 108RON
          LPG is 112RON
          Avgas is 100~130 (But don't use it in your car, as it contains lead.)

          • @pegaxs: United claim their E85 is 107RON ("Race Blend" with 15% 98 instead of 15% 91)

          • @pegaxs: Wait, LPG is that high??

            And what's avgas? never heard of that them before.

        • Still possible to get Shell/Viva racing

  • When EVs become common (won't be for a while), OP's question may become, how do I get more KMs from the battery pack.

    • Or more kW from the same charge.

    • +6

      Or who provides better quality electricity ? Coal powered or wind/solar powered ?

      • +1

        I want electricity that is just electricity.

      • Or who provides better quality electricity ?

        Electrons are better at Hungry J… well, a charger nearby Hungry Jacks :-)
        Round and juicy.

        Created from organically sourced High Voltage Power Lines.

        Ethically collected.

    • I use to pay my electricity bills via AGL, but after switching to Origin I get an extra 50km per charge…

  • Use Fuelwatch. Switch the top to PULP.

    Every second Tuesday is now the cheapest. Reward those operators.

    • +2

      Also Petrolspy is good.

      • +1 for petrol spy

      • Fuelwatch is government run and 100% accurate for every bowser in WA.

        It’s illegal for operators to change their price once lodged with Fuelwatch.

    • PULP - is that biofuel ?

      • Premium unleaded.

        Aka 95 octane.

          • 98 and 100
      • You forgot the /s.

      • PULP - is that biofuel ?

        Nah … it is a movie

  • my ex-boss lives up road from cheap place
    4 tanks from cheap place and 4 tanks from BP in his Forester, he managed noticeable more klms out of BP each time.

    -> YMMV

    • Interesting, can you quantify "noticeable difference" and is this difference enough to justify the price difference?

    • What was the 'cheap place' called?

    • If he drove, I say conformational bias.

      • +1

        Someone told me it was actually called "confirmation" bias but I will show them this comment as proof!

        • +1

          Ha ha…. An americanalizationalism crept in.. My apologies 😁

  • -1

    So there is a difference between them, but depends if you care.

    If you're talking unleaded/E85 fuel (not diesel), then the octane varies a fair bit between brands, and even batches. Some of the brands meet or exceed their RON (Octane) rating, some ocassionally have shitty batches.

    So most cars on the road do not having knock sensors which means they're probably not doing much to measure the octane of the fuel they have in the tank.
    So if your car is specified to 95 from factory, and you buy a tank full of 98, but your car doesn't have a knock sensor and doesn't measure the actual octane, the car will just run as if it had 95.

    Cars with knock sensors do something like this:

    1 - from factory, I'm set to 95, so make my RON estimate = 95
    2 - run for a bit
    3 - did I hear any pings from the knock sensor (not good for extended periods)?
    - if yes, assume my RON estimate is too high, so drop my RON estimate down 0.5
    - if no, and I haven't heard a ping in ages, my fuel is probably better than I thought, so raise the RON estimate 0.25, and see how we go…
    - otherwise, leave fuel RON estimate the same
    4 - Using the current RON estimate, set the spark timing to the ideal time for that type of fuel*
    5 - go to 2

    • In some cars with knock sensors, when you have a higher RON, you can light the spark in the cylinder a smidge earlier. This means a more complete burn of the fuel, and more power
      This is common in the performance turbo cars (Mitsubishi Evo, newer Subaru WRX etc).

    I have melted pistons in a rally car where my knock sensor and timing was wrong.

    Summary: if you have a knock sensor then you might get value from the higher octane fuel
    if you don't have a knock sensor (or new fangled equivalent) then you're probably not going to get more power/economy…

    Detergents added with some of the better fuels can help keep injectors clean etc..

    • My quesiton is not between fuels with different octane, I knwo there is a difference between them

      Question is, assuming the same octane, is there a difference in perfomance between different brands?
      I.e. Is 95 octane fuel from Caltex better than 95 octane fuel from Puma, or United?

    • +7

      I work in the Petrol storage Industry.
      Fuels owned by Shell, BP, Mobile (Whatever brand) are all the same.
      Most of their fuels even co-mingle in the same storage tanks prior to additives are added.
      What differentiates them is the petrol additives that they blend into the base fuel.
      These additives mostly effect the flashpoint, complete combustion and stuff like that.

    • +5

      So much bullshit in one reply. This is what I would expect from someone who heard it from someone who heard it from a mate’s best mate who knows a mechanic filter monkey that told him…

      then the octane varies a fair bit between brands,

      False. If it is 98, it has to be 98, it's not 93 labeled as 98. And they are not going to sell 98 as 95 because “price difference”.

      So most cars on the road do not having knock sensors which means they're probably not doing much to measure the octane

      False. Almost all modern fuel injected vehicles have knock sensors. Also false is that knock sensors "measure octane". They, wait for it… "measure engine knock" (pre-ignition).

      That garbage description of what knock sensors do is absolute tripe. Your engine is not always pinging and it adjusts it's whatever crap you are talking about to suit the fuel.

      I have melted pistons…

      False. Melting pistons comes from running the vehicle lean, something knock sensors have very little to nothing to do with. This is more to do with mismatched/ blocked/damaged injectors, shit fuel mapping, poor fuel pump supply (sucking air/low pressure) and other fueling issues, not from knock sensors.

      As for any sort of gain from “having knock sensors”, using the word “might” is even a stretch. Unless the vehicle is operating in conditions that promote pre-ignition, such as high engine loads like towing or high ambient temperatures, putting 98 in a car that only required 91 is basically throwing away money. There is little to no gain to be made and if there is any gain, it’s usually less than the extra cost difference in the fuel prices from 91 to 98.

      InB4: Links to Scotty Kilmer video…

  • All fuel brands are basically the same every service station is not.

    The disparity in fuel economy i get from different stations is sickening.

    • Why do you think it'd be the case? Do you think some of them are diluting fuel? Maybe diluting premium ULP with normal ULP?

    • 95 is 95 everywhere or else Standards will be on to them. It mainly comes out of the same depot.

    • Agree with this. It depends on the individual servo and the quality of their tanks, i.e. water/dirt/crud in the underground tanks. I've always gotten worse economy from one of my close independent servos (Metro in Sydney), which I suspect is due to the storage of their fuel. I also got crap economy from an Ampol in the next suburb away again I suspect due to crud in their tanks.

      • What sort of variation are you talking about? I get variation of around 10% from tank to tank using the same servo. Driving conditions have a big effect on consumption.

  • +1

    I had people telling me that their car runs better and longer when using premium brands, which sounds to me a lot like a myth.

    In this world there would be very few people who can literally feel if their car runs better on one brand over another. Most cannot do reliably confirm anything in blind testing. Economy, maybe if measured accurately and consistently. Mostly they are suffering from compensation bias of some sort. Pay more, must be better, therefore I think it feels better justifying my purchase.

    I get just as much significant variation in calculated fuel economy (kms and litres recorded in app) from the same servo as i do from different brands. It is mostly dictated by driving conditions, not fuel.

    Additionally, any motorsport team or business that ‘exclusively use’ brand x because ‘it’s better’ have some sort of sponsorship or fleet discount deal. It’s less to do with the fuel brand x supplies and more to do with which salesman got the executive the best night out.

  • I have a WRX and needs 98. Had issues for a long time with Shell, their QC is bad. Can tell if friends use Shell because it tends to have sulphur smell to it. For me performance was really bad, to the point I took it to mechanics to diagnose, told me bad fuel. I had my WRXs tuned to BP ultimate and no issues since. Engine builder showed me difference of torn down engines with BP vs others. BP use deterrents in their fuel that helps with carbon deposits, seen more fuels brands do the same now. When I got my turbo Kia engine sounded like it was knocking due to fouled injectors, sounded like a diesel. Ran some Subaru injector cleaner and ran a few tanks of BP and it sounds like a petrol engine again.

    I dont touch ethanol blends, another mechanic showed be ruined injectors from car using ethanol blends.

    My N/A beater would run 95, Mobile, Caltex and BP without issues. I stayed away from shell and no name brands due to dodgy servos here in Sydney adding water and killing engines. Co-worker had a Golf 118TSI destroyed due to water in fuel, thankfully issuance covered it. Also pay by card or have receipt for these stations. I never pay cash incase this happens to me.

    • Nice response.
      My mechanic has a very nice muscle car. He told me if he runs anything other than BP ultimate 98 it will ping off its head.
      He also knows a guy that delivers fuel to servos and pumps the same 95 into the 95 and 98 tanks.
      Take this with a grain of salt.

      • +1

        Depends on compression ratio and tune if car will ping.

        • IDK, I'm not a mechanics left elbow.
          Just saying if he reckons his car runs poorly on anything other than BP ultimate.

          I just got a new Mazda and just came here to see what the best fuel to put in it to attempt to extend the motors lifespan.

          • @Sapper50:

            Take this with a grain of salt.

            I usually do. Many people like to think they can feel a 1% difference in performance but I feel that they are usually talking out their butt unless they can back it with measurements. They are usually suffering from some form of bias related to how well stuff is marketed.

            Show me it gets more power on the dyno, Show me a consistent measurement of fuel consumption or some other measured, quantifiable, repeatable factor and I’ll listen (and still probably buy my fuel wherever is most convenient/cheap because in reality tiny differences don’t make a difference to my ride.

  • Guys, the octane ratings on fuels are minimum octane ratings…

    Do you want to know a secret.. there are some places selling 91 95 and 98 octane fuels and it's all 98 as its cheaper to produce, ship, store etc just one type of fuel rather than 3..

    True or not true?

    • +1

      Mostly bullshit. 98 is not cheaper to produce as it is basically just 91 with more anti-knock additive to make it 98.

      If anything, it would be most costly to produce 98 because of the extra additives they use, but it certainly wouldn't be in the 20¢/litre more expensive.

      98 is the price it is because it is what the market will put up with. That, and they figure that if you can afford a car that "requires" 98, you can certainly afford to pay more for your fuel. That, and also the fact that humans are conditioned to think… "Well, it is more expensive, so it must be better…"

      They are not selling 98 as 91 because people would just fill up on 91 and save that 20¢/litre if it were the same.

    • You are spot on about ethanol blends. The legal requirement is RON 94 minimum and most are above this. My vehicle is 95 minimum and I started looking at whether I could reasonably use e10 for city running. Research papers all seem to quote RON95 for e10.
      So I happily use e10 around the city and give it RON98 for towing, long runs etc.

      • So E10 is better than 91?

        • For RON, yes, for energy density, no.

          • @pegaxs: What does that mean?

            I have a 12 year old jet ski that calls for 95. If I'm not looking for top speed performance, why wouldn't E10 suffice?

            • @dmbminaret: E10 is only 94 RON

              If your jet ski calls for 95 , put in 95 unless you want the Jetski to run like dogshit and to get stuck on the water with clogged fuel injectors , not to mention the higher chance of a blown motor down the track.

              What Pegaxs means is you get a bigger bang for your dollar when using premium 95 compared to E10 , in other words you get further KM's out of a tank of fuel compared to E10 and E10 is only viable to use as a fill up if the following criteria below is met.

              1.Your vehicle can actually run on E10 (consult fuel flap first or check owners manual)
              2. E10 is only cost effective to use in comparison if its at least 15 cents cheaper then 95 at the same servo

            • +1


              why wouldn't E10 suffice?

              Because "water". The ethanol in E10 is hydroscopic, meaning, it soaks up water. This is a bad idea on any marine applications. If you own a jetski, I should not have to tell you how bad water in your fuel is.

              You are not doing hours and hours of jetskiing every single day, so the cost difference is not worth the savings compared to what could go wrong. Just buy regular 95 and don't use ethanol based fuels in marine applications.

              • @pegaxs: Thanks for the response. To be clear, was never going to do it, just interested in the information behind it to further my knowledge and understanding.

              • @pegaxs: Hygroscopic!

    • there are some places selling 91 95 and 98 octane fuels and it's all 98 as its cheaper to produce, ship, store etc just one type of fuel rather than 3..

      it’s probable that some sites sell higher grade stuff as regular from time to time just to keep the punters coming in the door. If all fuel was 98 with different labels don’t you think that would have been made public by now? Social media would be buzzing with ‘get regular coz it’s all 98’. There are people that test the stuff for a living and the ACCC would be smashed with enquires about serves ripping us off selling the same stuff for different prices.

      The thing with conspiracy theories is that when you get down to it, they don’t make sense.

  • The only major difference is the quality and age of the underground tanks the fuel is being pumped from directly into your car.

    • Older, tend to have more water ingression……

  • It all comes from the same hole in the ground.

  • I am not too concerned about the brand of fuel. More so the petrol station. Not sure how frequent they maintain their tanks.

    :p i usually prefer a blend of 25% shell 25% caltex 25% ampol then 25%bp. Seems give the optimal horsepower. A 0.1% error to the blend would drop horsepower by 1% until it peaks out at 10% power drop.

  • all the way

  • ask yourself how many refineries we have here

    i almost exclusively use independents so that means i run on mobil

    its fine

    • Why do you say independents are actually Mobil? Any source?

  • True OzB here. I drive Mustang GT V8 but meticulously monitor fuel usage.
    No name brands and independent operators invariably return worse fuel consumption figures than the big familiar brands *98 ULP

    From my own data

  • My cars run better with BP. No idea why. 7-Eleven/Costco, same same..

    • Better in a measurable, repeatable way? Or is it seat of the pants better?

    • The same happens to my golf diesel engine
      5-7% better

  • -1

    The brand doesn't really matter but try to stick with one brand of fuel consistently as different brands add different additives and your engine will react to the fuel differently as a result.

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