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Misleading! These trucks recommend (or require!) premium fuel

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Gone are the days where premium fuel is reserved for high-end sedans and SUVs. As truck customers demanded more performance from their rigs, manufacturers responded with bigger, more capable V-8s. However, it came with a catch consumers might overlook: Many trucks recommend (or require!) higher-octane of fuel for those top-shelf engines.

This leads to either a higher cost of ownership (if you use premium fuel) or reduced performance from your new truck (if you opt for regular fuel).

You won’t find recommended fuel information on the truck’s window sticker. And unless you ask the dealer, you probably won’t figure it out on the test drive either. So, we’ve done the research for you, compiling a list of new trucks that recommend more than 87 octane.

Chevrolet Silverado premium fuel

The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado RST with the 6.2L V-8 requires premium fuel. (Image courtesy of General Motors)

GMC Sierra 1500, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 6.2L V-8

GM recommends using 93 octane gasoline for its top-of-the-line 6.2-liter V-8-equipped trucks. The owner’s manual does state as low as 87 octane is acceptable for the engine. However, to achieve maximum performance and fuel economy you must use 93.

This problem with a vehicle requiring that octane is 93 isn’t available everywhere. The website find93.com uses crowdsourcing to locate stations in North America that sell 93-octane gasoline. So far, the site has found it across 3,200 stations in 46 states and an additional 200 in Canada. While this might sound like a lot, in many areas of the country, 93 octane is scarce.

Find93.com includes a map of stations that shows 93 is much more available on the east coast than it is on the west coast and middle of the country. In addition to being hard to locate, 93 is often quite a bit more expensive per gallon than 87, which is more commonly used.

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

2021 Ram 1500 TRX will require (not recommend) premium fuel. (Image courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)

Ram 1500 TRX

The 2021 Ram TRX  will require, not recommend, 91-octane fuel. This one isn’t too surprising given the TRX uses a high-performance 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 that makes 702 horsepower. While 91 octane is available in most areas, we would like to emphasize the manufacturer requires you to use that grade of fuel. Requires. Using less than 91 could result in denied warranty claims in addition to reduced engine performance.

Ram 1500 recommends premium fuel

The 2020 Ram 1500 Limited with the V-8 recommends mid-grade fuel, which is still more expensive than regular. (Image courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)

Ram 1500 (and 1500 Classic) 5.7L V-8  

Ram recommends using 89 octane, which is considered mid-grade, in all 1500s equipped with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 and 5.7-liter V-8 eTorque. However, Ram states in its owner’s manual fuel as low as 87 octane is acceptable, but maximum performance and fuel economy is achieved with 89.

What’s surprising about this octane recommendation is the 5.7-liter is the most popular engine in the 1500 lineup. It’s one step up from the base 3.6-liter V-6 in the Tradesman, Bighorn, Laramie and Rebel. The 5.7 is standard in Limited Longhorn and Limited trims. Although it is not premium fuel, 89 is still quite a bit more expensive than the 87 that you might expect to find in Ram’s volume engine. It will make your trips to the pump hurt the wallet a little more, so we thought it appropriate to include on this list.

2020 Nissan Titan (Image courtesy of Nissan North America)

Nissan Titan and Titan XD 5.6L V-8

Nissan debuted the 2020 Titan in the fall of 2019 with an updated 5.6-liter V-8. New for 2020, Nissan raised the capability of the standard 5.6-liter to 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. Of course, there’s a catch: To achieve this new rating, you must use 91-octane premium fuel.

Nissan stated at the time, though, the engine more than capable of running on 87 octane, but it will just operate at the same performance as the outgoing 2019 model. This is worth keeping in mind when shopping for a new Titan because if you want that 400 horsepower, you will have to pay more for fuel.

2021 Ford F-150

Though no information is available about the 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor (Lariat pictured), we anticipate a larger displacement engine that will require premium fuel a la Ram TRX. (Image courtesy of Ford Motor Co.)

Bonus Round: 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor

Though Ford has yet to release any official details on the upcoming, redesigned Ford F-150 Raptor, there have been rumors of a potential large-displacement V-8 being one of two engine options.

TFL Truck recently reported the new Raptor may get a 5.2-liter supercharged V-8, likely with well more than 700 horsepower. This engine is currently available in the Shelby Mustang GT500, which Ford states runs off premium fuel. Therefore, it’s not unreasonable to suspect the next-generation Raptor will come with at least one engine that takes premium fuel, given its place as a high-performance truck.

The bottom line on premium fuel

That closes out our list for the 2020-2021 model years. Unfortunately, it appears to be more and more common to find a V-8 truck that recommends (or requires!) premium fuel. So, it’s important to keep in mind how much you’re willing to spend in fuel and what kind of performance you expect when shopping for your next truck.

So, we want to hear from you! Do you put premium fuel in your truck? If not, would you buy a truck that takes premium fuel?

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17 Comments

  1. B. Finn November 17, 2020

    Interesting to leave out the Ecoboost line in this article. Ford does the same thing as RAM in that they say 87 is ok but 91 is recommended in its Ecoboost(at least in my 2.7-I assume 3.5 is the same). I have done my own extensive research and have determined that 89(non top tier) is fine for my Ecoboost. 87 and it knocks-I know a little knock is “ok” but 91 here in the People’s Republic of CA is very expensive. 89 from a gas station that is busy has been fine. I know Ford is on the hook again for MPG claims so I wonder if they will actually be a little more honest on the sticker in 2022(there are no major changes to my engine for ’21-the 3.5 and V8 I believe are getting slight boosts in performance). Good article though!

    Reply
    1. Brandon November 19, 2020

      That’s interesting that the ecoboost recommends premium. Funny thing is Ford’s own 2021 Technical Specs Guide just lists the recommended fuel for all gasoline F150s as regular unleaded (minimum 87). https://media.ford.com/content/dam/fordmedia/North%20America/US/product/2021/f150/pdfs/2021-F-150-Technical-Specs.pdf

      Seems like they should update that recommendation especially if you are getting engine knock with 87. I hear you about the price of fuel in CA. It’s out of control. The amount of gas tax we pay, the roads should be repaved every week! Even in the age of COVID, CA never saw anywhere near the same price drop as other states.

      Reply
      1. Brian Finn January 20, 2021

        Towing and other “strenuous” situations it says 91 preferred. I assume it means heat lol. Gas already at $2.99 and climbing here in the People’s Republic. We already pay over 60 cents a gallon in taxes. CA will want the taxes back they didnt get during COVID-19. Ugh. Lets hope my MPGS continue to climb like they have(I am at 22ish the last 1500 miles)

        Reply
      2. mstangt February 18, 2021

        Stop looking at the technical spec and go look at the owner’s manual.

        From the 2021 F-150 owners manual (Page 229):
        “For best overall vehicle and engine performance, premium fuel with an octane rating of 91 or higher is recommended. The performance gained by using premium fuel is most noticeable in hot weather as well as other conditions, for example when towing a trailer.”

        Essentially GM, Ford, and Ram are all saying the same thing… You must use a fuel with a minimum octane rating of 87, but for maximum performance or when towing, 89/91/93 octane should be used.

        Reply
  2. Natty March 24, 2021

    Octane rating does NOT affect MPG because your fuel injector sprays at the same rate. 93 is not “more powerful” all 93 is, is a less flammable fuel for high compression motors. 87 is literally and actually more flammable under pressure. This article is actual trash and ignorant. 93 doesn’t make more power, you would be ignorant of the chemistry of the fuel if you think so. Higher octane is simply less flammable. This site has lost ALL credibility.

    Reply
    1. RJM December 29, 2021

      THANK YOU! I’m not sure I would use the word flammable here, but there is no single word to describe “combustion due to compression” that I know of so I don’t know what I would have said differently. All grades of gasoline will combust at the same rate with a spark so as you noted the difference is how much compression it can take.

      Reply
  3. Will C April 16, 2021

    When fuel with higher than 87 RON is used the engine ecu optimizes the engine spark advance tables. The ” high octane” spark tables are enabled when no knock is detected. Advanced timing =increased torque = better fuel economy and at high rpm, increased horsepower as well. Octane rating most certainly does affect mpg on vehicles that recommend it.

    Reply
  4. JohnIL May 3, 2021

    Sort of taboo to require premium on most automobiles. People expect it with a performance car or exotic. Not always on a pickup at least not something that would be required. maybe towing or on a hot day rolling through the hills. Cars have also become a challenge for octane as all engines raise the performance levels and compression ratios to meet stricter emissions. I remember when 9.5 to 1 was high compression now we see 12 or higher and then we also see more turbo engines. I do think 87 is sort of less then a bare minimum for modern engines. People who keep their automobiles longer should at least consider using something more then 87 octane. Given the direct injection, hotter engines, and compression ratios.

    Reply
  5. JohnS May 25, 2021

    Premium in a engine that recommends it surely will give you more power as the engine maps to a more aggressive timing. But it certainly won’t help MPG because of this aggressive timing. More power means more air fuel. If you use 87 octane you tend to de-rate the mapping to a less aggressive timing so less power and depending on how much it de rates itself it might affect MPG more in hotter weather. Some may want to consider higher octane in Summer months and back to 87 octane in Winter.

    Reply
    1. RJM December 29, 2021

      Thank you as well. I always forget that modern engines have the ability to sense and adjust timing. Using that, it does make sense that higher octane in an engine can offer more power.

      Reply
    2. Jon S January 27, 2022

      Just a sort of question/statement but wouldn’t having more power definitely have an effect on mpg? Possibly even lowering the mpg in some situations. I’m definitely not a chemist or scientist so most of this discussion that consists of anything not from actual direct observation by the person commenting is above my pay grade lol. What I’ve noticed in my vehicles over that last 40 years of driving is your vehicle, truck or car, does better when you use the recommended fuel. I will say that back in the day in the years during and slightly after we switched from leaded fuels to unleaded fuels there were certain cars that needed the higher octane to decrease “knocks” especially during acceleration. As we drive ever more complex vehicles that require a computer to handle all of the variables going on while driving I feel its best to simply use the recommended fuel for each vehicle. And lastly as I’ve said in another comment I left in this conversation, something needs to be done about the huge price difference between the different octanes when it’s not costing the gas producer anywhere near the amount they are charging for those octanes per gallon. Cheers

      Reply
  6. mh January 15, 2022

    Toyota Tundra 2022 needs premium fuel

    Reply
    1. Tim Esterdahl January 21, 2022

      According to whom? The owners manual states 87 octane.

      Reply
  7. Jon January 27, 2022

    My 2015 Ram 1500 with the 5.7 litre Hemi says in the owners manual to use 89 octane fuel. Also it says you can use 87 if you absolutely have to but the sooner you go back to 89 the better. I ran my truck until it was on empty and filled it with 87 to run my own test. What I found was a decrease in mpg and less power. I ran it to empty again and filled it up with the recommended 89 octane. Mpg went back up as did the power when towing my travel trailer. I vaguely remember the science behind the different ratings and the ratings have to do with compression and from there the timing and including the valves. There’s a good video on the Ram website that does an excellent job of explaining it. Ram states that using a higher than recommended octane may cause damage to the engine. It then goes on to explain why that is. I would prefer to purchase a truck that doesn’t “require” high octane fuel (91+93) in order to get the performance you expect from a truck in that price range. Also, I feel like something needs to be done about the huge price difference between the ratings because it doesn’t cost the gas producer that much of a difference per gallon to make the higher octane rated fuel and by the way in the Midwest you can get 95 octane at most gas stations. I’m wondering which cars use that fuel? And lastly I want to mention that quite a few gas stations in my area offer gas without ethanol in it, usually it’s used for smaller 2-stroke engines such as chainsaws, lawn mowers and weed eaters but can be used in your truck if you want to pay double per gallon compared to regular 87 with ethanol in it. 2-stroke engines don’t like ethanol. Cheers

    Reply
  8. Red April 20, 2022

    I’m not really understanding this, as most USDM “top tier” engines have required at *least* 89 octane for a long time now. For example, the 5.7 Hemi has always listed 89 minimum since it’s debut in 2003. GM has required at least 91 since the L92 debuted in 2007. I guess, as a “car guy” this is no surprise to me. Higher CR and more timing (especially when VVT is employed) will be more prone to spark knock. Yet, a friend of mine recently purchased a 2019 Ram 1500 with the 5.7 and was incredibly disappointed when I told him he should use 89 minimum, to the extent he nearly didn’t purchase the truck and began looking at 3.6 engined trucks. Do people really not do basic research?

    Reply
    1. Tim Esterdahl April 20, 2022

      Most people don’t do that much research and that’s why posts like this one are helpful!

      Reply
  9. Hagar July 14, 2022

    My 2017 GMC Sierra with 6.2L engine strongly recommends 93 octane fuel. Why? I’ve pulled my 8,000 pound trailer through mountains with no knocking issues…I don’t buy (pun intended) premium gas requirements. It’s made up by gas companies who want to make even more money.

    Reply

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