What are the benefits of better-quality fuel?

choosing the right fuel

There’s a variety of fuel options on the market, from standard unleaded to ethanol blends, diesel and more. But which is the better option? You’ll want to consider the health of your vehicle, as well as other factors like the effect of emissions on the environment, before making a switch.

Let’s explore how to choose the right fuel for your car and your lifestyle.

Different types of fuel

Many drivers have one type of fuel they are used to buying and don’t notice any of the other options, but next time you’re at the bowser take a moment to look around and see the different fuel types available. There may be more than you expect!

Here’s a quick rundown of the different types of fuel available for Australian vehicles:

Standard unleaded

In Australia you’ll see standard unleaded fuel labelled as Unleaded 91, which is the most common fuel type in the country. The vast majority of cars that take unleaded petrol will be able to use it, however in terms of efficiency you will get more out of a premium petrol even though it comes with a higher cost.

Premium unleaded

There are two levels of premium unleaded petrol that you’ll find at most Australian service stations, with many of the bigger brands labelling them under a different name (e.g. BP Ultimate, Caltex Vortex, etc.).

The 95-octane petrol is usually referred to as U95 or PULP (premium unleaded petrol) while the 98-octane version is called U98 or UPULP (ultra-premium unleaded petrol). Both are designed for better fuel economy, smoother engine performance, higher engine power and lower emissions.

Note that some performance cars will say they can only take UPULP 98-octane fuel, so always check your car’s care instructions before changing to a better-quality fuel.

Ethanol-blend unleaded

A cheaper option that is higher octane than standard unleaded is the 94-octane E10 fuel, which is a blend of 10% ethanol and 90% unleaded petrol. However, the ethanol means it’s less efficient than fully unleaded products. You can verify whether your car is E10 compatible by using this handy checklist.

Depending on your service station, you might also see E85 fuel – this product is 85% ethanol, 15% regular unleaded, which means it’s cheaper and less harmful on the environment. However, you’ll need to factor in the lower fuel efficiency against the overall cost.


Diesel is a highly efficient fuel type that generally offers better fuel economy compared to unleaded petrol. However, the Volkswagen emissions saga caused major issues just a few short years ago, having a detrimental effect on the environment and creating new rules around diesel engines in modern cars.

In terms of cost, you may have to factor in the price of diesel as well as the cost of AdBlue, which is an essential means of reducing nitrogen oxide emissions.


Liquefied petroleum gas, also known as ‘autogas’, is a blend of butane and propane that doesn’t offer anywhere near the fuel economy of petrol. That’s why it tends to be much cheaper. Only LPG-specified cars run on this fuel type, and some service stations may not stock it at all.

Pros and cons: The benefits and drawbacks of different quality fuels

For the sake of this overview, we’ll only discuss the benefits of different unleaded petrols, as they are the most common in Australia and there is a range of other factors to consider with diesel.

  • E10: In most cases E10 is the cheapest option, but that comes at the expense of fuel economy. However, buying E10 supports Australia’s sugarcane industry, which could be an influential factor for some drivers.
  • Unleaded 91: As the ‘standard’ unleaded petrol, you’ll find U91 at almost every service station. It’s slightly more expensive than E10 but you get greater fuel economy. However, many modern cars now demand better-quality premium fuel to protect their engines.
  • Unleaded 95: With greater fuel economy at a higher price point, U95 is a good option for mid-range performance. Depending on your car, it may be a better choice than standard unleaded. Although many high-performance modern cars recommend nothing lower than 98-octane fuel.
  • Unleaded 98: The ultimate in fuel performance and efficiency, U98 sits at the highest price point but it does provide better engine power and reduced emissions compared to the other fuel options.

Australia is playing catch-up on quality

Despite January 2019 seeing fuel prices drop to a 10-year low, there have been repeated calls for Australia to improve its quality of fuel. In fact, the poor fuel quality in Australia has seen a number of super-efficient car models blocked from being imported.

Data from the Australian Institute of Petroleum reveals that our cheaper prices – fourth-cheapest petrol and sixth-cheapest diesel in the OECD – are because our standard of fuel sold is sub-par compared to fuel in other developed countries.

Thankfully, there’s a major push within the Australian automotive industry to improve our standard of unleaded petrol and diesel. The ultimate goal? To get more efficient cars on the road and more advanced engine technology implemented.

Aside from cost, the environmental impact is a major factor behind getting better-quality fuel. James Hurnall, Technical Director for the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, told carsales.com.au that we need to adopt the Euro 6 pollutant emission legislation for light vehicles, but for that to happen our standards need to follow what’s happening in Europe, with the EN228 for petrol and EN590 for diesel standards focusing on more refined, low-sulphur fuel.

The right fuel for the right car

While Australian fuel plays catch-up with other developed nations, you can do your bit and research the best-quality fuel for your circumstances.

In terms of improving the environment, fuels that produce lower emissions (like ethanol blends and high-octane premium fuels) are always recommended. And for the overall wellbeing of your car, consider going for a more premium option – it may save you money in the long term while also keeping your car in the best possible condition.

Remember, though, to check your car’s care instructions to ensure it can operate with a particular fuel type, whether that’s an E10 ethanol blend or a high-octane premium petrol.



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