Dear Driving for Dollars,
I've been told by my mechanic that gas purchased from a nonbranded gas station is not the same quality gas as at a name-brand gas station, and it can damage my engine. Is there any truth to this?
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According to the Department of Energy, all gasoline is refined through the same process and must meet the same set of federal standards. The so-called no-name stations purchase their gas from whatever supplier is the cheapest at the time, so there are plenty of occasions in which the no-name station is filling their tanks with name-brand gas. It's just that they are not allowed to advertise the brand.
That said, there is a group of gasoline retailers that has pledged to meet a set of increased standards known as top-tier detergent gasoline. Top-tier retailers have gone through a certification process that proves they've increased the amount of detergent additives in their gasoline beyond Environmental Protection Agency requirements. Some people feel the increase in additives leads to higher-quality gasoline because detergent additives are supposed to provide optimal performance and decrease engine deposits.
Finally, be careful about what you think of as no-name gas. Some of these top-tier retailers -- there were 22 at press time -- are name-brand companies such as Chevron Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell, while others would likely be perceived by some as no-name companies, for instance Kwik Trip Inc. and Mileage Stations.