The Best Gas for Lawnmowers & Other Portable Outdoor Power Equipment


What’s the best gas for lawnmowers and other portable outdoor power equipment (OPE)? What do the experts say? To answer that question, we can head to Tomball, Texas, a small northern neighborhood of Houston boasting a population of roughly 13,000 and the home of D-S Lawn & Automotive, a family-run business for over 50 years.


David McClinton’s parents started the company, known originally as White’s Auto and then Western Auto, in 1970. They also sold and serviced outdoor power equipment despite primarily being an automotive repair shop. When Western Auto later went out of business, McClinton and his brother-in-law gradually changed the company’s business model to lawn and garden equipment sales and service.

Do You Know What Type of Fuel You Should Use in 2 & 4-Cycle Outdoor Equipment?


Most homeowners likely don’t know what kind of gas for a lawn mower is best, or a string trimmer, generator, or other OPE. Most opt for the inexpensive route; pump gasoline. What many people also don’t know is that pump gas will wreak havoc on small outdoor equipment, leading to poor performance and even equipment failure. For these reasons, McClinton keeps an ample stock of VP Small Engine Fuels (SEF) on his shelves, though he didn’t always.


In fact, it was a stroke of luck (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it) that turned him on to VP SEF, as we’ll later find out. Ask him today what’s the best fuel for your lawn mower or other OPE, and there’s no hesitation. Whether it’s new equipment on his showroom floor or a repair job, every piece of outdoor portable equipment leaves his shop with VP Small Engine Fuel in the tank.


If you own portable outdoor equipment, you’ve probably seen several 2-cycle and 4-cycle fuel brands on the market, each touting itself as the best gas for lawnmowers, generators, and other equipment. So, why does McClinton swear by VP? Let’s say the proof is in the pudding. We had the opportunity to speak with him about VP SEF and what he’s seen since putting it on his shelves at D-S Lawn & Automotive.

Why VP SEF Is the Best Fuel for Lawnmowers & Other OPE


VP: How long have you carried VP’s line of Small Engine Fuels?


DM: We’ve been using VP for five, six, seven years. It’s [in] everything that we repair as far as lawn and gardening equipment. The fuel the customers bring in with their equipment is dumped. When it [repaired equipment] leaves my store, it’s got VP [Small Engine Fuel] in it. Everything that we sell new leaves with VP in it.


VP: When did you start putting VP SEF in new and repaired equipment?


DM: We started that a few years ago … we’d put some lawnmowers on the floor, and they might sit two or three months. Then we’d finally sell it, and the silly thing won’t start because the needle in the carburetor is frozen, or the fuel solenoid needle is frozen. So, everything that we put on the floor and everything that we service goes out with VP.


We have trained so many customers to use strictly VP. As a matter of fact, our fire department here in Tomball, which is a substantial fire department, all of their rescue saws, chop saws, all of their equipment – they probably buy 10 to 20 gallons at a time when they come in. So, when they get on an accident or a house fire, their equipment is going to start. That’s [VP SEF] the only thing they’ll use.


VP: Do you carry small engine fuels from other manufacturers?


DM: We’ve got Stihl’s fuel. We’ve got ECHO’s fuel. We’ve got RedMax’s fuel. But, I’m the kind of guy – I’m going to tell my customer, “Hey, the VP is 94 octane, and it’s cheaper than the other stuff, so buy the VP.” I sell ten times more VP than [the other fuel brands].

The Switch to VP From the “Other Guys”


VP: How did the relationship start between your company and VP?


DM: Years ago, when they first came out with TruFuel, we were buying it through a distributor. We had a couple of mowers on the floor that had it [TruFuel], and they wouldn’t start. I drained the fuel filter, and it had water in it. So I said, okay, I [probably] had a little kid come by and dump his water bottle in the gas tank.


Well, this happened a couple of different times, so I called my [distributor] rep and said, “Hey, have you had any problems with contamination in the TruFuel?” He said they had some issues and changed over to VP, and [he] said I need to start using VP. So, I said, it’s made in San Antonio, Texas. Let’s give it a whirl …


I was at market with True Value one year, and the VP booth was there. I said, “Oh my God, please, are you [VP SEF] going to be in the warehouse? [They said] “Yes, we’re stocking it in the warehouse.” I can get one gallon. I can get one quart. As a matter of fact, I think at market, the total order was about $6,000 or $7,000 that I gave the girls at the booth.


VP: I’m guessing you carry both our 2-cycle and 4-cycle SEF?


DM: We do both, yes. I’ve also brought in some of the pro stuff [ProMax Small Engine Fuel], and it’s good … Believe it or not, I’ve even got commercial cutters, and that’s [VP SEF] all they’re using … They don’t have any downtime on their equipment being in the shop.

Pay Me Now, or Pay Me Later


VP: So many DIYers unknowingly think that the 89 octane at the corner station is the best gas for lawnmowers and other equipment, but when it comes to reliability and not worrying about downtime … that’s actually one of the big selling points we point out among others.


DM: I had a guy kind of fuss at me one day. He got his repair bill for his string trimmer, and it was over a hundred-and-some dollars because I had to put a carburetor on it. He started complaining about that, and I said, “If you start using the VP fuel, you wouldn’t have that issue,” and he [says], “Ah, that stuff is too expensive.” So I told him, “I just charged you over a hundred dollars for your weed eater repair; this [VP SEF] is cheap insurance.” And he says, “I guess you’re right.” I mean, [I told him] you can pay me now, or you can pay me later.


VP: When you have a new customer and sell him a piece of new equipment, do they ever ask, for instance, what kind of gas for a lawn mower is best? Does it take a little convincing like, “Why should I buy this VP fuel? It costs more than if I went down the street and put pump gas in it?”


DM: No, I give them the whole spiel. I say, “Look, your pump gas, if you’re going to buy it … you even look on the back of the bottles of oil mix [2-cycle small engine oil], and it says minimum 89 octane. With the cost of fuel, people are like, “Well, I’ll just buy the 87 [octane gas].” I tell them that in 35 to 45 days, that fuel [pump gas] will start separating from the ethanol. I say, “You could go home and put this [VP SEF] in the  chainsaw in your barn or in your garage, go on vacation for two years, come back, and it’s going to start.” Typically, they’ll [his customers] come back and keep buying it. I’m a firm believer in VP fuel.

VP Small Engine Fuel & McClinton’s Tractor


VP: Have you ever had a customer come back with a fuel-related problem after using VP?


DM: No, never. Never an issue with VP.


VP: So it sounds like you’re not getting the repair work due to using and selling our fuels, but you’re selling more of the fuel … It seems to be a fair tradeoff.


DM: Absolutely. In fact, I have to tell on myself … I had taken five gallons up to my farm in east Texas for my 4-wheeler and mower. I thought I had ten gallons of pump gas in my barn for my big tractor. Well, my tractor was empty; I guess my dad didn’t fill it up the last time he was up there. I had just gotten [there] and didn’t want to have to get in my truck and go into town to get gas.


I looked at that five gallons of VP [4-cycle small engine fuel] and said well, okay. So I put five gallons of VP into my 1954 tractor, and the thing has never run so good in its life. I told my tractor, “Now don’t you get used to this [laughs]. That’s a little expensive just to be shredding the pasture.”


I can usually tell when I need to head back to the barn to get fuel – just the time [spent] mowing. It got to be about that time, and I figured I needed to start heading back before I ran out of fuel. Hell, I got back to the barn, and I still had over half a tank. I said, “Dang, I’m even getting better gas mileage with this stuff.” Like I say, VP and me – we go together.


VP: What would be your one-minute elevator pitch to customers about using the fuel in their small engine equipment?


DM: You know, ethanol is not our friend at all. You’re fixin’ to spend a couple of hundred dollars on a piece of equipment. Why don’t you spend a little bit more on some fuel that’s not going to let you down? As a matter of fact, I’ve got 20 gallons of it in my garage at the house sitting next to my Honda generator, just in case we get a storm or a tornado and lose power. I’m good to go [chuckles]!

We want to thank David for his time and insight and mention that he was not paid for his endorsement and testimonial. Take it from an expert. Whether a professional landscaper or weekend yard warrior, we think you’ll agree; the best gas for lawnmowers and all outdoor portable equipment isn’t gas, but a premium fuel designed and manufactured by a company that has blended world-renowned specialty fuels for nearly 50 years.


VP Small Engine Fuels – Consistent quality and reliability, time after time.

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