Like many bargain-hunting Americans, I can’t say that I’m particularly loyal to very many brands. I’ll buy Ragu spaghetti sauce if it’s on sale, Prego if it’s not, or just eat a tomato if they’re both too pricey. Heck, I don’t even favor one particular supermarket! I’m even less brand loyal when it comes to clothes, cars, and computers. But if you look back over my expenses over the last five years, there’s one name that’ll keep popping up every couple of weeks without fail. That name is Shell, as in multinational oil company Shell.
But here’s the weird part: I don’t even feel particularly loyal to Shell. Probably the only reason they still have a monopoly over my gasoline dollars is because my mom insisted on only using Shell gasoline as I was growing up. That, and after I got my first car, the three closest gas stations to home were all Shells. Now that I live in a different city from where I grew up, I still get my gas exclusively from Shell. And the other day, as I passed a nearby Texaco station that was selling Regular for 10 cents less than the Shell station at which I’d just refueled, I asked myself a startling question: Why am I still buying Shell gas?
After that, I considered the following facts about the Shell stations in my city:
- Shell gas is consistently a few cents more expensive than Exxon, Texaco, and the no-brand gas stations like Free State.
- The three closest Shell gas stations are actually a little bit out of my way now. The closest one to “my way” is generally the pricier of the three.
- The Shell gas stations are not as well maintained as those of the other brands. Frequently the windshield squeegee liquid is empty or really dirty at the Shells I frequent, and either the air or vacuums are out of order half the time.
- If I ran a gas station, I would call it “Cheap Ass Gas.” But that’s beside the point.
Perhaps another reason I still maintain my Shell “loyalty” is because I thought it was a superior gas back when I first purchased my MINI Cooper. That’s because many MINI drivers on the internet recommended Shell’s V-Power premium gas over other brands and grades. Now that I drive a Mazda3 that only needs Regular, do I still need to get that Regular from Shell?
After presenting myself with these questions, I did some research on gasoline brands to see if other folks had thoughts or scientific evidence as to which gasoline brand was the best. About five minutes into my research, I stopped being an idiot and remembered that all major gas brands share refineries and pipelines. So while Shell might be refining that oil, Exxon and Citgo may be the ones selling it. And in the next state over, the reverse may be true. When it comes to gasoline, gas is gas.
What may make a difference, however, are the additives that each brand adds to its fuel. You may have heard of Chevron and Texaco’s Techron additive. In fact, some people seem to swear by Techron. Others favor Shell’s additives, and still others can be found who prefer virtually every other brand of gasoline because it’s supposedly better for their vehicles. And while I couldn’t find any scientific studies to confirm my hypothesis, I found no general consensus that one brand of gasoline performed significantly better than others.
I did, however, find several brands referring to themselves as Top Tier Gasoline because they use more than the EPA minimum recommended amounts of detergents to help keep your engine clean. But again, I found no scientific proof that more detergent keeps your engine more cleaner.
The only real difference between gas formulas that I found is that, quite consistently, those which are 10-15% ethanol provide much worse gas mileage that those that are 100% Made in the Middle East or Perhaps the Gulf of Mexico gasoline. Unfortunately pretty much all of the fueling stations around here have switched to some blend of ethanol.
Will I keep using Shell gas after discovering all this? Possibly, though mostly out of habit. I may experiment with other brands to see if there is any noticeable difference in performance. Don’t worry, I know not to buy from Citgo since the only additives they put in their gas are communism and anti-American sentiments.