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Originally published July 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 27, 2007 at 2:03 AM

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Over a year, you'll pay a premium for premium gas

After you check out the cupholders in the new car you're shopping for, take a look inside the fuel-filler door. There may be a surprise...

Detroit Free Press

After you check out the cupholders in the new car you're shopping for, take a look inside the fuel-filler door.

There may be a surprise there that will cost you $3 or more every time you fill the tank.

A surprising number of otherwise affordable new cars and trucks require or recommend premium gasoline, the fuel grade that often costs 20 cents a gallon more than regular.

It's a cost many shoppers may overlook until the first time they refuel their new car, when it's too late for second thoughts.

It's an easy mistake to make. Most of us assume only high-powered exotic cars require premium, but some mainstream models do, too.

Twenty cents a gallon may not mean much to the architect in the $250,509 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti or the lawyer in the $169,900 Bentley Continental GT, but it's a nasty shock to the college grad who stretched his or her budget to buy an $18,285 Chevrolet Cobalt SS, a $22,110 Toyota FJ Cruiser or a $24,000 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE, all of which require or recommend premium fuel.

The difference can add up to real money. Consider the Ford Edge and Mazda CX-7, two cool-looking five-passenger SUVs with similar power, size and fuel economy. The 265-horsepower Edge runs on regular; the 244-horsepower CX-7 requires premium.

Assuming 1.25 18-gallon refuels a week and a 20-cent-per-gallon hit for premium, the CX-7 will cost about $20 a month more to run than the Edge.

Over 52 weeks, the difference amounts to about $240. That's easily half a car payment, assuming you bought a base CX-7 with a $2,000 down payment.

(The payment calculator at Edmunds.com was used to estimate the monthly payment.)

While some mainstream models like the CX-7 and FJ Cruiser require premium, you might be surprised by some of the upscale and performance cars that happily burn regular, including the turbocharged Saab 9-5 and the 300-horsepower Mustang GT convertible.

So check inside the fuel door. You never know what you may find.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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