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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.