I drive a Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor which, with its 4.6-liter V8 engine, is quite a gas guzzler. According to the car’s specs, it should do 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on highway (which is less than the standard Crown Vic—16/24).
And for the last six months I’ve driven it, it has almost always done the exact spec gas mileage—not a bit less or more. So now that I went on a 5,000-mile road trip to the southern states and back, I had the chance to see how much my car’s gas consumption varies with different gasoline brands.
Let it be noted that I did’t use any scientific method to determine which is the best gas in America. I went by the overall consumption, the performance of the car and the consistency of the quality.
So here’s a list of the gas stations I filled my car up and how they compared.
6. Phillips 66—Almost as bad as Sinclair, although the consumption is a bit better. But the car’s performance isn’t exactly the best and you can feel it. Same advice—avoid like the plague. Consumption 21-22 mpg. Grade: 3/10
5. BP—Famous for its oil spills (and saying “sorry”), I would normally avoid BP already for that reason. But at one point it was the only option. The car’s performance sucked, consumption was an okay-ish 22 mpg. Grade: 4/10
4. Shell—For a long time it seemed Shell was the best gasoline available, at least in Chicago. But that’s far from the truth. The additives Shell uses affect the car’s performance quite remarkably and not for the better. Shell’s nitrogen-enriched fuels are the worst. Consumption: 20-22 mpg. Grade: 5/10
2. Conoco—The only gas that I managed to get 26 mpg with. And that’s even more than a standard Crown Vic! The only thing was, this happened on a mostly downhill route in the Rockies. Conoco’s usual consumption was 24 mpg and the engine was singing happy tunes. Grade: 9/10
1. Chevron—The only gas that consistently did 24 mpg, no matter whether in the mountains, in the plains, whether on an unpaved road or on concrete. The car’s performance was the best I had ever felt, acceleration even better than usual and the overall feeling was the big old engine was happy. Grade: 10/10
So therefore it’s safe to say that if you buy from Chevron, you do get the best gas in the United States. But there is one more thing that needs to be pointed out.
Remember when in the beginning I said I usually get quite consistently 14/20 mpg? So how could it be that on my road trip even Shell did up to 22, and Conoco up to 26 mpg?
The thing is, the overall quality of gasoline is better in the southern states. I started to notice this since Oklahoma, then in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Kansas, Colorado. On the way back, in Missouri the gasoline quality again started to decline and in Illinois it again got to be the worst.
So what’s the catch? Well, it seems they sell more pure gasoline in the south than in the north. In the north, Shell, as pointed out earlier, mixes its fuel with nitrogen. Most gasoline producers add up to 10% ethanol in their fuel—which effectively means 10% worse gas consumption as ethanol burns faster. But yet you pay for gasoline, not ethanol, right?
Another paradox is that while the quality of gasoline is a lot better in the south, it’s far more expensive in the north. In the southern states, a gallon of regular 87-octane fuel is around $3.29-3.69. In Chicago we nowadays pay a whopping $4.40 per gallon and get lower quality. I don’t think that’s entirely fair.
But bottom line: if you have any Chevron gas stations in your area, do your car a favor and fill up there. If not, try Conoco. And if you don’t have these either, go for Mobil. That’s what I’m going to do from now on—because there are no Chevron or Conoco gas stations in Chicago.