New OPEI poll shows consumers are confused about fuel product offerings

By edited by Sarah Bunyea

Association says lack of education, inadequate labeling and dangerous marketing tactics are likely to blame.

Consumers remain confused about the multiple fuel product offerings in the marketplace, says a new study commissioned by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, Alexandria, Virigina, and conducted online by The Harris Poll among more than 3,000 U.S. adults.

The study, which has been conducted annually for seven years, shows lack of education, inadequate labeling and dangerous marketing tactics around new fuel products, such as higher ethanol-blended gasoline, are likely causing consumers to misfuel. The study found that more than one in five outdoor power equipment owners are currently misfueling and one quarter have done so in the past.

This fueling confusion can lead to potentially costly repairs, says Kris Kiser, OPEI president and CEO. “The EPA has stated it’s illegal to use any gasoline containing more than 10% ethanol in any small engine product, like a lawn mower, string trimmer, leaf blower, generator or UTV. There are more fuel blends and choices on the marketplace today, and consumers don’t always realize that what works in their car or truck, may damage their small engine equipment not designed, built or warranted for it.”

The study found that nearly two in five Americans (37%, up from 33% in 2019, 31% in 2017 and 2016, and 30% in 2015) mistakenly believe that higher ethanol blends of gasoline are safe to use for any gasoline-powered lawn equipment or other small engine products, such as boats or snowmobiles.

Roughly half of outdoor power equipment owners (51%, down from 58% in 2019) say they either don’t pay attention to (25%) or are unsure of (27%) the type of fuel they use in their outdoor power equipment.

Twenty percent of equipment owners say they currently use fuel in their equipment with higher than recommended ethanol (E15/E30/E50/E85), up from 12% in 2019, 11% in 2018, 12% in 2017, 8% in 2016, and 7% in 2015.

A quarter (25%) of equipment owners say they have used fuel higher than E10 when fueling their outdoor power equipment in the past.

Just over 1 in 10 equipment owners (11%, up from 6% in 2019), have used an E15 or higher fuel in an engine not designed for it.

Some of the problem boils down to assumptions. More than 3 in 5 Americans (64%) assume that any gas sold at the gas station is safe for all of their cars, as well as boats, mowers, chain saws, snowmobiles, generators and other engine products. The price of gasoline also factors into consumer decision-making, as nearly two thirds of Americans (65%) say they will use the least expensive grade of gasoline whenever possible.

“Combine a consumer’s desire to save money with confusing pump labeling, and add in disingenuous marketing for Octane 88, which is really 15% ethanol or E15, and it’s no wonder these numbers are going up,” says Kiser. “As the regulator of the fuels marketplace, the government needs to improve pump labeling and educate consumers on the fuel blends available and how they should be used.”