This is a pretty common question. Is it ok to put regular gas in a car when premium gas is recommended. The simple answer is yes, it is safe to do so.
What is OCTANE?
The difference between regular and premium gas is the concentration of octane in the gas. Octane is simply a hydrocarbon of the alkane family which also includes the more familiar methane and propane.
What does OCTANE do?
Octane raises the temperature at which the fuel ignites. In the piston, gas and air are compressed before being ignited by the spark plug. The greater the compression, the greater the explosion which drives the pistons and thus more power. Higher levels of octane allows for greater compression thus avoiding premature ignition, a.k.a knock. Knock happens when the heat of the engine/piston itself ignites the compressed fuel/air prematurely.
So why is it ok to use regular gas?
In most modern premium cars (i.e. cars that recommend premium gas) the OEMs expect some owners to use regular gas and so the cars are able to adjust their timing to compensate for the earlier ignition times for regular gas. It may take a few tank fulls for the adjustment to take place but the cars will adjust.
Then why do OEMs recommend premium gas?
Generally for better performance, both power and possible fuel mileage. However, for most people it doesn’t matter. It only matters if you have a high performance, highly tuned vehicle (lucky you!) and/or you like to really push the car when driving.
If you are not driving a high performance car in a high performance way, then regular gas is sufficient. If you want, you can carefully note the fuel mileage and performance with a few tanks of regular and a few tanks of premium and see if you notice a difference. If you notice a difference, then ask yourself if that difference is worth the extra cost of premium gas.