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?
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.