Is RON97 Really Better Than RON95?

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For the first time in history, petrol kiosks in Malaysia are experiencing a shortage of RON97 petrol, after demand for the fuel surged following a reduction in its price on December 1.

The high demand came after the Government scrapped subsidies for RON95 and diesel and implemented a managed float system, which resulted in a very low difference between the price of RON95 (RM2.3o per litre) and RON97 (RM2.60 per litre).

The price of RON97, which incidentally fell nine sen from RM2.55 to RM2.46 per litre in December 2014, saw some petrol kiosks double their sales of the fuel from an average of 500 litres to 1,000 litres in a day.

In February 2015, retail prices of RON95 and RON97 fell further to RM1.70 per litre and RM2.00 per litre, respectively.

However, prices of RON95 and RON97 went up by 20.5% and 22.5% in August to RM2.05 per litre and RM2.45 a litre respectively.

Here is a comparison of RON95 and RON97 prices from December 2014 to February 2017.

DatePrice of RON97/litrePrice of RON95/litre
Dec 2014RM2.46RM2.26
Jan 2015RM2.11RM1.91
Feb 2015RM2.00RM1.70
March 2015RM2.25RM1.95
June 2015RM2.35RM2.05
July 2015RM2.55RM2.15
Aug 2015RM2.45RM2.05
Aug 2016RM2.10RM1.75
Feb 2017RM2.60RM2.30

Besides the reduction in price, the soaring demand for RON97 is no doubt fuelled by the longstanding belief that it is superior to RON95. It has also been regarded as the holy grail of fuels for many Malaysian drivers due to its steep price and therefore, greater exclusivity.

Over the years, there have been plenty of debates over the two types of fuel, with some claiming that pumping RON97 will boost engine efficiency and performance, while RON95 is not as good for your engine and may even cause it to clog up in the long run. But is RON97 really better than RON95?

To begin, we must first understand what this RON deal is all about. RON really stands for Research Octane Number, which is a standard measure of a motor or aviation fuel. The higher the octane number, the more the fuel can withstand compression before it detonates. Each type of engine is designed for a specific range of octane numbered fuels.

In general, higher octane fuels like RON97 are used for cars with higher performance engines.

You should avoid using fuel with an octane number that is lower than what your engine is built for, as this will result in “knocking”. Knocking occurs when the fuel detonates in the engine combustion chamber before it is supposed to, resulting in poor performance and may even ruin the engine.

Most cars in Malaysia are built to run on RON95 petrol. New development in engine technology has also allowed for some high compression modern engines to also run on RON95.

Judging from the drastic spike in RON97 demand, it is clear that many Malaysians still subscribe to the idea of RON97 being the superior fuel. But is it really? We look at some popular myths and beliefs surrounding the usage of the two fuels to provide an accurate measure.

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Myth 1: RON97 can boost engine performance

The common belief is that engine performance can be improved by using fuel of higher octane than what is specified by the engine manufacturer. However, according to, switching to a higher octane fuel has no proven effect on your engine performance and cannot help your engine develop more power. It’s just petrol, not Gandalf.

Certain fuel companies claim that the engine oil in vehicles using RON97 stays cleaner and for longer due to the lower heat generated in fuel combustion. It is also commonly thought that RON97 can clean up or absorb any deposits that may build up on vital engine parts like the valves. Such claims are widespread and are often taken as the gospel truth, though there have been no scientific data to back them up. Besides, how clean the fuel is has to do with the detergents used and not the combustion rating.

Myth 2: RON97 gives you more mileage

Another misconception that surrounds the two fuels is that using RON97 can actually give you more mileage than RON95.

According to Car Reviews N Care, the amount of mileage you get from your tank really depends more on traffic conditions and how you handle your car. Obviously, taking a congested route on a daily basis will cost you more fuel than a less congested route of the same distance (not that many of us have a choice). You are also more likely to obtain greater distances with your vehicle if you have a passive driving personality (or if you live outside of Kuala Lumpur). Reducing your speed and accelerating with moderation are some proven ways that can help you save fuel.

The moral of the story is, just because RON95 is sold at a cheaper price does not actually mean it is of a lesser quality or is inferior. It is simply a type of fuel that caters to specific engine requirements, just like how RON97 caters for higher performance engines. So, if your car’s engine is rated for RON95, stick to that as going to 97 will just cost you more without producing any better results.

More Malaysians are now able to afford the once-elusive RON97. However, unless your car manufacturer specifically tells you to use RON97, using this premium grade fuel will not actually rev up your car’s performance or give it a cleaner engine.

However, with the managed float system, the price gap between RON95 and RON97 is a mere 30 sens for every litre, or RM15 for every 50 litres, so it makes financial sense for the fuel consumer to opt for the higher grade fuel given their car’s engine requires it. The same amount of RON97 fuel would have cost you RM145 in March 2015 (when the price of RON97 peaked at RM2.90 per litre), and RM120.00 in January 2016.

DateRON97 (50 litres)RON95 (50 litres)
January 2017RM120.00RM105.00

While these lower fuel prices are certainly a boon for Malaysian drivers, it is important to keep in mind that these prices are not a constant and can increase again if world crude oil prices go up.

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This article was first published on December 8, 2014. 



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