Writing about different types of fuel is a daily practice on this blog. However, we haven’t answered every question yet. Therefore, we’re going to use this blog to talk about if E-85 is an intelligent decision for your wallet or not. Let’s start with a quick answer:
E-85 is cheaper to fill up on since it typically costs 20 – 30% less than E-10 or E-15. However, E-85 is also 20 – 30% less fuel-efficient, which results in a lower MPG. Therefore, E-85 is not cheaper than other types of gasoline in the long run.
However, that certainly doesn’t answer the question wholly. Below, we’ll dive deeper into the price aspect of E-compared to other types of gasoline. We’ll discuss the price at the pump (and how this fluctuates over time), and we’ll discuss how differences in fuel economy occur depending on the season. We’ll also discuss the maintenance cost for using E-85 instead of E-10/15. Read on!
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The Three Price Factors Of E-85 and Other Types Of Gasoline
To identify whether or not E-85 is cheaper than regular or premium gasoline in the long run, we have to find some criteria to compare these types of fuel. Below, we’ve outlined the three main criteria: price, fuel economy, and maintenance.
First, it’s essential to know whether or not there’s a price difference between different kinds of fuels. We’ll compare E-85 (also referred to as Flex-Fuel) to regular, unleaded gasoline with an octane of 87 and premium gasoline with an octane of 93. We’ll assume they contain 10% ethanol (E-10) for these fuels. The difference between E-85, E-15, and E-10 can be read here: E-85 vs. E-15 vs. E-10 (All Differences Explained!)
At the time of writing, the prices for the following fuels per gallon are as follow:
- For regular, unleaded gasoline (E-10) with an octane of 87 prices vary between $3,77 – $5,85.
- For premium, unleaded gasoline (E-10) with an octane of 93 price vary between $4,29 – $6.14.
- For E-85 prices vary between $2,24 – $4,19.
Looking at the graph above that illustrates the development of fuel prices over the past five years, we can see that the average price for E-10 is $4,16 per gallon, whereas E-85 has an average price of $3,21 per gallon. This means that E-10 is currently 30% more expensive than E-85.
However, we also see that price differences between these fuel types differ over time. For example, in January 2019, E-10 had an average price of $2,10 per gallon, whereas E-85 cost $1,81. That’s a price difference of 16%.
To conclude, it’s safe to say that E-85 will typically be 15 – 30% more expensive than regular gasoline or premium gasoline, depending on the period in which it is sold.
Another essential factor of how much E-85 costs compared to other types of gasoline is the fuel economy you can get out of all these types of fuel. As a general rule of thumb, E-85 has a significantly worse fuel economy than E-10 or E-15. This is because E-85 vaporizes much quicker than regular gasoline, which means you burn through it faster.
However, it’s essential to know that E-85 sold in the United States doesn’t contain 85% ethanol. Instead, it has 51 – 83% ethanol, depending on the region and the climate it’s sold. This means fuel economy is affected throughout the season.
As a general rule of thumb, ethanol contents during the winter are much lower than in the summer. This is because ethanol has difficulty igniting in colder temperatures, so that manufacturers will create a 51% ethanol 49% gasoline mix in frigid temperatures. On the other hand, 83% ethanol 17% gasoline will be used in warmer climates.
In general, it’s safe to assume that driving with E-85 means you’ll get 20 – 30% fewer miles per gallon when compared to E-10. However, during winter times, when temperatures are lower, you’ll be closer to 15 – 20% less MPG, whereas you’ll be closer to 30% less MPG during the summer months or when you drive in a warmer climate.
However, earlier, we concluded that E-85 is 15 – 30% cheaper to fill up on, but we now discovered it provides a 20 – 30% worse fuel economy. This means that there’s very little difference at the bottom line when both factors are taken into account. That leaves us with one deciding aspect to examine.
Finally, it’s important to note that running your vehicle on E-85 gasoline requires a different maintenance schedule. That’s not to say that it’s more expensive to maintain. Contrary to popular belief, all fuel systems built after 1994 and sold in the North American market should be able to withstand E-85 (if your vehicle is approved for E-85, please check this before running E-85).
However, it is essential to check the owner’s manual since the maintenance schedule for the vehicle will be different from the one used to run on E-10 or E-15.
So, are E-85 vehicles more expensive to maintain? Typically they cost the same in maintenance. They just have a different schedule.
In conclusion, we learned that E-85 is cheaper at the pump. However, the lower fuel economy you get will immediately equalize these factors from a financial perspective. Also, maintenance for using E-10/15 or E-85 is different but not necessarily more expensive. Therefore, it doesn’t matter which fuel you opt to operate from a financial perspective.
However, it is essential to note that E-85 is worthwhile from an emission standpoint. E-85 is not cleaner to drive with (it generates the same amount of carbon dioxide and harmful toxins as other types of gasoline). However, the production is much cleaner, and since it’s made out of crops such as corn, the plants that are used take up carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen as they grow. This means E-85 is 40% cleaner than E-10/15.
- E-85 Flex Fuel vs. 87 Octane (Differences & Similarities)
- E-85 Flex Fuel vs. 91-93 Octane (Differences & Similarities)
- Can You Mix E-85 And Unleaded Gasoline? (Explained)
- Why Mixing Different Octane Gasoline May Destroy Your Car
Hi! My name is Stefan; I’m the owner and lead writer at TheDriverAdviser.com.
I’m an active writer on this blog myself, as well as a novice car mechanic. For the really technical stuff, I find writers with experience as a mechanic or who have studied mechanical engineering.
Read more about our fantastic team on our about page!