BMW X3 at the gas station

BMW X3: Regular or Premium Gas? Find Out What’s Best!

If you’ve clicked on this article, you’re likely a BMW X3 owner.

And one question we often get is, “What type of gas should I use?”

So, let’s answer it!

The minimum gas type for the BMW X3 is mid-grade gas (89 octane), although premium gas (91 octane) is recommended. Regular gas (87 octane) should be avoided as you risk damaging the engine.

By the end of this article, you’ll clearly understand why these recommendations exist.

So, let’s start!

At a Glance: What gas Type does your BMW X3 need?

Before diving into the details of octane levels, let’s get straight to the answer many of you might be looking for.

After all, sometimes, all we want is a straightforward response, right?

  • For a regular BMW X3: If you have a ‘standard’ BMW X3 with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine (like an xDrive28i or xDrive30i), use mid-grade gas (89 octane) at minimum. However, the experts and your BMW owner’s manual recommend using premium gas (91 octane or higher).
  • For high-performance models: Do you own a BMW X3 xDrive35i, M40i, or even an X3 M? If so, they all require premium gas (at least 91 octane).
  • Tuned BMW X3: If you’ve given your BMW X3 a tune (for example, using a RaceChip), fill it up using premium gas (at least 91 octane).

Quick note: Occasionally filling up with regular (87 octane) or mid-grade gas (89 octane) won’t necessarily damage your car. But if you want the best for your vehicle long-term, sticking to the recommendations is the way to go.

If you prefer a table overview, here is what you should know:

CategoryTypeIs It OK?Notes
GasRegular (87 octane)!Not recommended.
GasMid-grade (89 octane)Minimum octane rating recommended by BMW, the car will run safely.
GasPremium (91 octane)Recommended octane rating by BMW, which can prevent knocking sounds and prolong the engine life.
GasPremium (93 octane)
GasEthanol-based (E10)Same as the typical gas at most pumps.
GasEthanol-based (E15)!Not optimal for the car, but it won’t be a danger in the short term.
GasEthanol-based (E85)!Mostly not OK. It can only be used if your BMW X3 has a flex-fuel system.
GasReformulated Gasoline (RFG)A type of gas that burns more cleanly, about 30% of the gas sold in the US is RFG. (Source)
AdditivesFuel injector cleaner!Be careful; it can potentially damage the engine when overused.
AdditivesOctane booster!Be careful; it can damage the engine when misused.
AdditivesFuel stabilizer!Be careful; it can damage the engine when misused.

Stick around if you’d like a deeper dive into why these recommendations exist. Otherwise, happy driving, and treat that BMW well!

Reader’s tip: A 2024 Study On BMW’s Reliability: Are They Good Cars?

Does a BMW X3 require regular or premium gas?

Time to dive a little deeper!

According to the owner’s manual of a BMW X3, mid-grade gas (89 octane) is the minimum fuel type, but premium gas (91 octane or higher) is recommended:

BMW X3 recommended gas type from the owner's manual

So, if you fill up your BMW X3 with mid-grade gas (89 octane), it will run safely. However, you risk damaging the fuel system or engine by using regular gas (87 octane).

Tip: The correct gas type for your BMW X3 will always be written on the inside of the fuel filler cap.

BMW X3 fuel filler cap - gas type sticker

But here’s the thing – just because someone can survive on fast food doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for their health.

Similarly, the engine of your BMW X3 is designed to reach its rated performance and consumption values with premium gas (91 octane). It can also positively impact how long your X3 will last!

BMW X3 fuel quality notice from owner's manual

If you own a high-performance version of the BMW X3, like the X3 xDrive35i, M40i, or X3 M, premium gas (91 octane or higher) is a must.

While an occasional tank of regular (87 octane) or mid-grade gas (89 octane) isn’t the end of the world, consistently using this gas type can lead to issues like engine knocking, reduced power, and even potential long-term engine damage.

BMW X3 at Chevron gas station

And what about a tuned BMW X3?

Modifications like RaceChip can significantly increase the power of your BMW X3. But when you upgrade the engine’s performance, its gas needs an upgrade too.

Just as an athlete on a rigorous training regime needs specialized nutrition, a tuned BMW X3 requires premium gas (91 octane or higher).

Difference between regular, mid-grade, and premium gas

Fueling up might be a mundane task, but there’s a science to it.

Behind each pump, there’s a lot of chemistry going on to make our vehicles run smoothly.

So, if you’ve been wondering, “What do these octane numbers mean?” let’s take a look!

The octane rating of a gasoline type indicates its resistance to premature detonation or knocking.

In car terms, knocking is a rattling or pinging sound you’d hear when the air-fuel mixture in the cylinders detonates earlier than it should. It’s not good for your engine!

The higher the octane rating, the more compression the gas can withstand before it ignites, which reduces the likelihood of knocking and leads to smoother engine performance.

When you’re filling up, you will typically see the following gas types:

  • Regular gas (87 octane): Regular gas is the most common and least expensive type of gasoline available at most stations. It’s best for everyday vehicles that don’t demand high performance.
  • Mid-grade gas (around 89 octane): As the name suggests, mid-grade gas sits between regular and premium gasoline in terms of performance and price. Perfect for those who want higher-quality fuel without paying too much.
  • Premium gas (91 octane and above): Designed for high-performance engines, this gas resists knocking and ensures smoother combustion. It’s best for high-performance vehicles, luxury cars, and those with turbocharged engines.

The main difference between regular, mid-grade, and premium gas is that regular gas has an octane rating of 87, mid-grade gas has an octane rating of 89, while premium gas has an octane rating of 91 or higher.

Regular (87 octane), mid-grade (89 octane), and premium (93 octane) gas at a pump

High-end cars (like BMW models) often have advanced engines that run on relatively high compression ratios. These engines thrive on the richness of premium gas, offering better acceleration, fuel economy, and longevity.

Real-world experiences with BMW X3 gas choices

Not convinced by the benefits of premium gas? Let’s check out some real-world experiences from BMW X3 owners!

1. You might be fine with regular gas

One BMW X3 owner shares they always use premium gas but know some people who’re using regular gas without issues:

Me personally, we use premium, I also purchased our X3 and did not lease. But I know a couple of people who lease a new 3 series every 36 months like clockwork… They both use regular gas 100%… both of them have never had any issue.


2. Mid-grade gas is okay

Here’s an X3 owner who says the car runs fine on mid-grade (89 octane) gas too:

Although a lower grade gasoline may work it is a huge risk on a $40-$50k vehicle to take. BMW recommends 91 AKI with a minimum rating of 89 AKI. I use 93 AKI which is the highest available around me. I have been on road trips where 89-91 AKI is available only (in mountains and such) and the car ran fine.


3. Less MPG with mid-grade gas

Lastly, here’s someone who found that mid-grade gas had a negative effect on their X3’s fuel economy:

I lease my 28i and only use 93 octane. All of the fueling stations I’ve seen here in Texas have ethanol blended, so I can’t say if that makes a difference or not. I can say that I didn’t have a choice once and had to put in a small fillup of 89. The X3 ran, though it was less than 19mpg compared to 25mpg the tank before. Promptly filled up with Chevron 93 afterwards. Definitely not worth the risk, given the slight cost increase.


Can you use ethanol-based fuels for the BMW X3?

Ethanol-based fuels are fuels that contain ethanol, which is a renewable fuel made from biomass. Biomass consists of a variety of plant materials.

It looks something like this:

Corn put into the gas tank filler cap of a car

That’s a joke, of course!

In reality, over 98% of gasoline in the US contains ethanol. The most common ethanol-based fuel is E10, which consists of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline.

Ethanol-based fuels reduce air pollution, but at the same time, using gas that contains a high concentration of ethanol can damage your vehicle.

E10 is a standard that’s commonly accepted to be safe for most cars on the road today, including the BMW X3.

However, you may occasionally find E15 gas containing 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline. In the US, E15 can be found in 30 states at over 2,400 pumps (source).

E15 is not optimal for the BMW X3, but it won’t be a danger in the short term. However, it can only be used for BMW X3 models from 2006 or newer.

BMW X3 - exterior - rear - grey

Once you increase the ethanol percentage further, it really won’t be too good for your car.

For instance, E85 gas is also available in some places, but it can only be used for your BMW X3 if you have a flex-fuel kit.

FAQs about gas for the BMW X3

If you have any more questions about which gas type to use for your BMW X3, take a look at these FAQs:

What happens if I accidentally use regular gas in my BMW X3?

Filling your BMW X3 with regular gas once won’t cause immediate harm. However, you might notice reduced performance and engine knocking. To prevent potential issues, it’s a good idea to top off with premium gas on your next fill-ups. Consistently using regular gas isn’t advised, as it can lead to engine issues.

Can I use fuel additives for the BMW X3?

You can use fuel additives or cleaners for the BMW X3. However, it is important to carefully read the manual beforehand and avoid using additives more than twice a year, as this can damage the engine or fuel system.

Can the BMW X3 take 93 octane gas?

Filling up a BMW X3 with 93 octane gas will allow it to extract its maximum performance and engine longevity. However, 91 octane is just as good unless you have a high-performance model.

Final verdict

To summarize: You cannot use regular gas in the BMW X3.

You need mid-grade gas at a minimum, and it’s recommended to use premium gas.

BMW recommends premium gas to preserve the engine and ensure your X3 continues to drive for years to come.

Sure, in the short run, you might save a bit by using regular gas. But think about the long game: lower fuel efficiency and potential repair bills.

Suddenly, those upfront ‘savings’ might not feel so significant.

If you have any more questions, let us know in the comments!

Gas requirements for other BMW models

Are you interested in the required gas type of other BMW models?

If so, you can find everything you need to know in the following articles:

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