Is Costco Gas Quality the Same as Exxon, Shell and Chevron?

Costco gas quality
There are many reasons to love Costco. They treat their employees much better than many businesses, and they have competitive prices when it comes to the things that they sell. While there might be some reasons that you wouldn’t want to shop there, a lack of quality in the gasoline they sell is not one of them.

If you have ever driven by a Costco and looked at the prices at their gas stations, you know that they can be significantly lower than gasoline prices anywhere else in the area. It doesn’t take much to realize this. All you need to do is look at the long line of cars waiting to fill up their tanks to know that the price is significantly lower than most other places in the area. The prices can be so low, in fact, that you might wonder about the quality of the gasoline. When Costco is selling its gasoline for so much less than the competition, is it the same quality as brand-name gasoline such as Exxon, Shell, and Chevron? Most people want to know if Costco gas is good quality fuel.

The first thing that’s important to note is that the government sets fairly stringent standards for all gasoline that is sold in the United States. When it comes to octane level and other specific gasoline characteristics, all gas is basically the same. The difference between the fuel that you buy at branded gas stations comes down to the detergents that are added to the gas.

Even here, the government sets standards. The federal government has required since 1995 that all gasoline which is sold in the US must contain a certain amount of detergent additives. These additives are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved, and the government has specified the amount of detergent which must be added to keep vehicle engines free from deposits. Costco gasoline meets all these requirements, or it couldn’t be sold in the United States.

The question then becomes, just because Costco meets the minimum requirements, is it still as good as other brand-name gasoline? A number of automakers made the decision that the US government additive requirement wasn’t high enough for many cars. As a result, they developed a “Top Tier” standard. In order to meet the “Top Tier” designation, the fuel sold at the gas station had to meet additive requirements higher than is required by the US government. Costco fuel meets this top-tier standard.

Is the gas that they sell exactly the same as the major brands? No. But no major brand sells the exact same fuel. Costco gasoline is rated as equal to any other major brand gasoline. You should not notice any difference when filling up your vehicle at Costco as compared to other major brands of gasoline. The only difference you should notice is the significant savings that you receive when filling up your car there.

Even if you feel that the gasoline isn’t quite as good as another major brands that you have used, you might want to try this “gas hack” that will still save you money. In most areas of the country you can fill up at the Costco gas station, plus add quality fuel injector cleaner that you can purchase inside the warehouse. If you add this fuel injector cleaner as recommended, you will still pay less when purchasing Costco gas, and the fuel injector cleaner, than you would by purchasing gas alone at a major brand gas station.

In the end, there is nothing to suggest that Costco brand fuel is inferior to any other brands of gasoline. Don’t let the price alone dissuade you from getting a great deal.

(Photo courtesy of Adam Keys)

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64 Responses to Is Costco Gas Quality the Same as Exxon, Shell and Chevron?

  1. Person says:

    You cant really prove that costco gas made that damage…. unless you can then filter ur gas you pump every time into a bucket and then make sure there is debris on in right off the pump.

    Gas Filters fail too… fuel pumps can pass debris too… you supposed to have a filter inside your fuel tank too.

  2. Person says:

    its exactly what i do, but given the fact that if i fill at shell (which gives me more mileage but at a higher price) than just filling at costco and pay less… its kinda even to fill either at costco or at shell.

  3. Person says:

    well if he fills up .. after being empty… he could just run the van for like 2 mtns and then the new gas will be burning already

  4. Ron says:

    Top tier has NOTHING to do with additives other than detergent. Chevron Techron and Shell V Power are separate additives on top of the standard Top Tier level detergent. Top Tier mean detergents higher than the government’s minimum requirement are used. All the major station are now Top Tier including Texaco, 76, Mobile, Arco. That means even the ethanol using station are using such detergents.

  5. Jim H says:

    Jim, Thanks for your comments which I find to match-up fairly well with what I know about gasoline.
    What you omitted is that when gasoline is delivered here in So. California (where during the most of the year, we have warmer temps than most other states) the outside temp, when delivered, is definitely taken into consideration, just because of because of “the density of the fuel”…
    That said, I agree that once the fuel is in the ground for a few days it become much more stable…but, our ground temp is warmer that most other states.

  6. MightyMouse says:

    Check out the new Shell V-Power Nitro+ fuels. The only fuel recommended by BMW M and Ferrari.

    Best fuel out there right now IMHO.

    7 times the cleaning agents, plus several other factors are much better.

  7. Kimberly Fraser says:

    Jim,many thanks for all of you information which is really informative.
    Not to mention, Thank you for your services with the NATO Troops!
    Could you tell me what brand name gas station would you recommend that would be best for me and my “1995 Mitsubishi 3000GT SL” that requires 91-93 octane? Also, with the higher octane, should I uses an additive such as Techron or BG44K when filling up my tank every month? Looking forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience. Till then, take care and be safe..

  8. Kimberly Fraser says:

    Good evening Jim, many thanks for this information, not mention Many Thanks for your service to the NATO Troops!!

    I hope you can help me to decide on what is the best of gas stations (Brand names, Shell/Sunoco etc.) to help me and my 1995 Mitsubishi 3000GT SL that requires 91-93 octane fuel.

    Also, should I put Techron or BG44k or any other additive in my tank before filling up every month to help with pinging? My baby only has 55,589 miles on her.

    Looking forward to hearing back from you with any information you can give me at your earliest convenience.

    Till then, take care and be safe..

  9. Kimberly Fraser says:

    Sorry Jim, I just signed up on this site tonight and the sign up was a little mixed up and thought they deleted my first first response, obviously not. Sorry for the same second reply. Either way, many thanks..

  10. First off, nice car. My brother has a 1994 3kgt SL. Second, it doesn’t require premium gasoline. That’s only needed for the VR4’s. Third, being fuel station loyal isn’t worth the energy. Most fuel gets refined at the same refining centers and your car doesn’t know the difference between Shell from Sam’s Club. Fourth, 55,589 miles – good for you! Keep her cherry! I’ve used BG44k. It’s a really good fuel system cleaner. I did notice a difference after running it in my 2g Mitsubishi Eclipse. But it’s expensive. I would limit it to every few years, honestly. Your fuel system will not get too dirty with the few miles you put on it. Fifth, that pinging you’re referring to is probably lifter tick (if it kinda sounds like a sewing machine). It’s very common in 3kgt’s. You don’t have to worry about it. You could try running a larger oil filter or running thicker oil if you really hate it. But me personally, I would just leave it alone. It’s just a little quirk of the car. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  11. Margaret says:

    I came upon this website because I just bought a new car -have 900 miles now. My Subaru Impreza says it will get 28 city/ 37 highway mpg. I’m getting about 23 mpg and on my 3rd tank- all from Costco gas stations. I purchased the Impreza over the Forester (my last vehicle) because I normally do a lot of highway driving (but not since I purchased the car and the Impreza had the best mpg, an important feature when I can drive 90-140 miles each way to work.
    When I took my car in for some post purchase upgrades and mentioned the lack of mpg and the difference- the service manager asked if I used Costco gas and that I should switch for a tankful and see what happens. I haven’t so far but wanted to see what others had to say first and if there was a real difference.

  12. There’s no documented difference between Costco fuel and others. Keep filling up with the cheap stuff. Unfortunately, many cars don’t get the MPG they advertise.

  13. Justin says:

    My wifey has a 2009 VW Jetta. It has 38k miles on it and has been well cared for. We run a bottle of Techron through the tank every 6 months. We recently had a few codes on the Jetta for sensor failure (VW sensors love to fail randomly). There were a few other codes related to carbon build up so we had a fuel system cleaner (at dealer because sensors were covered under extended warranty). My mechanic had just installed a new fuel filter and he stated that it is a good thing I came in a little early as the filter was starting to get clogged. Both the mechanic and the VW tech (not the service person) stated that Costco gas is no good.

    I had previously researched Costco gas and found that it was a Top Tier gasoline. Basically, this is my take. If you switch to Costco, the added detergent will clean your engine. That cleaned gunk needs to go somewhere. I think it is something similar to the people that have trouble with Seafoam. The product works, but sometimes has unintended consequences. My theory is two fold.

    First, the extra detergent breaks up gunk in the tank and such and that causes fuel filters to get clogged. Since most people do not change their filters, it only compounds the problem. The extra detergent may actually not be a good thing. Also, due to the differences in fuel systems between makes and models, the root cause is probably difficult to locate.

    Second, I believe people’s driving habits make a huge difference on vehicles. For my wife, we make frequent trips of under 3 miles. The Jetta rarely gets a chance to warm up. We are one of the few people an electric vehicle would make all the sense in the world to. I believe that the frequent short trips lead to incomplete combustion and aid to the carbon build up in our vehicle. That would also explain why some people driving the exact same models of vehicles have problems with Costco gas and other do not. I also believe this is what causes some of our premature sensor deaths in the Jetta (although this did not happen in our Ford Focus in 40k miles of similar driving and over 100k miles total). Maybe the extra detergent has something to do with this?

  14. Get that woman a bicycle!!! Yes, driving too few miles leads to all sorts of finicky problems w/ internal combustion engines”

    1) Batteries fail because they don’t have time to get fully charged back up by the alternator
    2) Exhausts rust because they never get hot enough to burn off the condensation, thus the water just sits in the exhaust bends
    3) The problem you mentioned
    4) MPG is horrid since engines burn a lot before getting up to temp
    5) There’s another problem with the engine oil. I don’t recall what that is at the moment.

    You should convince Consumer Reports to do an investigative study about detergents. Or if they already have, they need to get the article SEO optimized for Google. There’s no good piece advertised about the ill-effects of Costco fuel.

    Although even if it does cause sensor and fuel filter issues to some cars eventually, the engine is still getting cleaner. And combine that with the fuel cost savings and you’re probably still coming out ahead pumping Costco fuel.

    Seriously though, get a bicycle! They’re great for short trips!

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