Supermarket fuel vs branded: which is best for my fleet?

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Often, most people and businesses look for the cheapest option when purchasing fuel. Typically, fuel with the lowest costs can be found in supermarket forecourts, where competing brands drive down prices to attract shoppers who fill up as part of their weekly shop.

Although supermarket fuels are the cheapest, some drivers have concerns about the quality of the fuel. However, is this theory backed up by science? We’ve investigated, fact-checked the rumours, and explored whether there’s any difference between the two. And if so, which type is best for your fleet.

Is supermarket fuel the same as branded fuel?

It’s worth noting that all petrol and diesel sold in the UK must conform to British and European standards. Therefore, they all work in the same way and if you combine fuels from different sources, they would all work without an issue. The fuel you find in supermarkets has the same regulations as premium sellers. And they’re held to the same quality and safety standards. So, although it’s cheaper, you can be reassured that you aren’t purchasing a harmful or unsafe product.

However, there are differences between the fuels you can buy today when you take into account the additives that are sometimes added.

What are the differences between supermarket fuel and branded fuel?

The key difference between the various branded fuels on the market is the specific performance additives and the amount of them found in fuel. There are numerous additives available for drivers, all of which offer benefits to your vehicle, from increased cleanliness to greater efficiency.

Do additives work?

Some additives are designed to be included every time you fill up your fuel tank. For example, older cars were designed to run on fuel that contained lead, but as this is no longer available, lead additives can be used in their stead to prevent premature wearing of the engine.

In the cold, there’s a risk of poor engine running, and some additives can help with this. Additives designed for colder weather can keep the fuel stable, ensuring that it’s combustible and reliably provides power. They can also be helpful for cars that are in storage as the additives can keep the fuel inside the engine from deteriorating as quickly.

Other additives, such as detergents, can prevent or even aid in cleaning out the internal components of a car, helping to flush the debris from sensitive parts of a motor. This can be especially useful when reviving classic cars or repairing engines that haven’t been used in some time.

Are premium fuels better for your vehicle?

Premium fuels, also referred to as “super” or “high performance” fuel, have a higher octane rating than other fuels offered at the pumps. This means that the fuel is harder to ignite, requiring greater compression than lower octane fuels. Alternatively, if you have a diesel engine, the premium equivalent will come with a higher cetane rating.

Typically, high-performance engines will compress their fuel more, so by using a higher octane fuel, you’re able to avoid internal explosions that may damage your engine. Branded fuels often label their products with different names, however, when deciding what’s best for you, it can be helpful to focus instead on the octane content of the fuel for an accurate measure of the quality.

Some vehicles do benefit from higher octane fuels and are recommended as standard, but the simplest way to find out what octane best suits your car’s engine is to check your car’s handbook. You may also be able to find this information on the casing around your fuel cap.

The benefits of high-octane fuels tend to focus on high-powered engines such as high-end sports cars which you’re unlikely to find in your average fleet. So, if your fleet is made up of practical vehicles, do premium fuels still benefit you?

If your vehicle doesn’t require a higher octane fuel, but you still fill it up with premium fuel, you may not see any immediate changes in performance as the impact does vary depending on the make and model of your car but over the longer term, you may find improvements in terms of reduced wear and tear on the engine.

What are the costs of premium fuel?

Unsurprisingly, due to the additions of detergents and other chemicals, the price of premium fuel is more than that of regular fuel. In early December 2021, the UK saw an average fuel price of 146.1p per litre of petrol and 149.9p per litre of diesel. However, if you compare that to premium fuel, the price rises to 158.8p per litre. Although this is just an average, and prices may be cheaper depending on where you are, overall premium fuel can add an additional 10p to the cost of every litre of fuel.

Ultimately, if your fleet relies on vehicles with modern small to medium-sized engines, the benefits of premium fuel may be limited. However, some additives can improve the efficiency and lifespan of older vehicles and the benefits of modern vehicles (in terms of reliability, MPG, and cost of upkeep) mean that older cars can be impractical for a fleet owner.

No matter which fuel you choose to use, at Right Fuel Card, we offer a wide range of fuel cards to help improve your fleet management. Working with major fuel providers in the UK, we can provide you with the best products on the market so that you can find fuel cards to suit your specific needs. We can offer you fuel cards for the following forecourts and providers:

And of course, we can provide you with fuel cards for supermarket forecourts too.

If you are looking for more control over your fuel costs, then use our card finder tool to find the best card for your business today:

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Karl Gurney
Head of Sales

Karl has over 14 years of experience in the fuel card industry and has a wealth of knowledge around the servicing and maintenance of fleet vehicles. Outside of work, Karl coaches a junior football team and enjoys spending time with his 2 sons and wife.