Why Top Tier Gasoline is More Than Just Hype

Top Tier gasoline, containing detergent additives aimed at reducing gunk in your engine, has often been dismissed as hype on the part of major retailers trying to drum up more sales with a clever pitch.

Thing is, though, the stuff seems to actually work! 

An extensive AAA study recently touted the benefits of Top Tier gasoline and urged drivers to take notice when selecting their stations. 

Why Top Tier Gasoline is More Than Just Hype

There’s a lot of information out there about Top Tier unleaded – from its history to its benefits, to how you can implement its use in your station (assuming you haven’t already done so). We’ve collected the best links to give you the full picture of why Top Tier gasoline is more than just hype and what you need to know to make it work for you.

But, First, What Exactly IS Top Tier Gasoline?

Back in the 1990s, the EPA sought to mandate the use of detergent in mogas by regulating a minimum level that had to be present in fuel. The idea was to improve fuel quality, thus combating engine clog.

Trouble was, the plan vaguely backfired. Some suppliers dropped the amount of detergent in their gasoline to only meet the specified minimum level, which reduced fuel overall quality instead of increasing it.

A group of automakers, believing the EPA rules didn’t go far enough in their aims, backed an initiative for fuel containing a higher threshold of detergent – and Top Tier was born.

This Carfax blog provides a great synopsis of the Top Tier backstory.

Sounds Good, But Does It Work?

Top Tier may sound like a lot of happy talk. But a 2016 AAA study found that not all gasoline is created equal  – and Top Tier comes out on, well, top.

“AAA was surprised to learn the extent to which detergent additives impact gasoline quality,” revealed John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “As advertised, tested Top Tier gasolines kept engines remarkably cleaner than other fuels we tested.”

Among brands AAA tested, non-Top Tier gasoline caused 19 times more engine deposits than Top Tier brands after just 4,000 miles of simulated driving. (Ouch!!) To protect vehicle investments, AAA urged drivers to use a gasoline that meets Top Tier standards for engine cleanliness and performance.

Here are the full findings of the AAA study.

Who Sells It and What’s Involved In the Process?

Not surprisingly, many fuel suppliers have jumped on the Top Tier bandwagon. But, there is a process to getting the fuel certified.

According to this post from Autoguide, to earn Top Tier certification a fuel must pass four tests: 

  • Deposit control on intake valves
  • Deposit control on fuel injectors
  • Deposit control on combustion chambers
  • Prevent intake-valve sticking

The also notes a growing group of retailers that have signed on to develop fuel with a higher detergent level.

 Here’s a full list of licensed Top Tier brands for diesel and gasoline.

Top Tier Marketing in Action

Major brands have always been proud of their fuel, but given the wealth of positive press about Top Tier mogas, marketers have been touting these blends with zeal. Here’s how one big box retailer feels about its Top Tier fuel.

Sign Me Up!

If Top Tier Sounds like something you want some additional information about or if you are ready to become a Top Tier gasoline marketer today, here is a helpful link to get you started.

You are also going to need some price discovery at the wholesale rack so you can benchmark your contracts and negotiate with your supplier.

A wholesale rack market, you say? Find out more on what that is here. 

OPIS provides price discovery for “unbranded” Top Tier products.

In  How To Read Your Wholesale Rack Report, you learned that stations and jobbers associated with a particular gasoline brand MUST buy branded product, which contains various special additives that differentiate the product.

If you are a branded retailer or jobber, your decision to use Top Tier gasoline has already been made for you! We have been told that suppliers (see the list above) signing on to provide the Top Tier additive are doing so with 100% of their branded product. 

Independent retailers and distributors can purchase unbranded gasoline – i.e., from whomever they want. OPIS now publishes benchmarks for unbranded Top Tier products in available markets.

But, you should note!

  • With their unbranded products, suppliers are offering product with and without Top Tier. So make sure you know which price you are referencing.
  • Top Tier costs a bit more than non-Top Tier gasoline.
  • The Midwest has emerged a major market for unbranded Top Tier gasoline.


Here’s an example of an OPIS Top Tier gasoline rack posting:

Why Top Tier Gasoline is More Than Just Hype

This data is available in all OPIS rack reports, so long as Top Tier gasoline is available in that particular market. 

So, is Top Tier gasoline the choice for you? Are you already selling it at your station? What have your customers been saying? Leave us a comment and share your story.


Tags: Gas & Diesel, Retail Market