Does My AC Really Affect My Gas Mileage? (2023)

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Does My AC Really Affect My Gas Mileage? (1)

East coast residents from Boston to New Jersey have famously bad commutes and spend a lot of time in their cars (orCrashbusters® vans in the case of our Claim team). During the summer months, this means cranking up your car’s air conditioner to beat the heat.

On those really hot and sticky days, using your air conditioning is a no-brainer. But, you may have asked yourself: “Does my AC really affect my gas mileage?” Drivers have been arguing about windows down vs. air conditioning for years, but the honest answer is that there is no single solution. The type of car you drive, the actual temperature outside and the condition of your AC system will all play a role.

Does AC affect gas mileage?

As a general answer, a Consumer Reports studyfound that, yes, running the AC does reduce gas mileage.

Here are some tips to help you balance your fuel consumption with comfort.

  • Generally, the air conditioner uses gas, so use it wisely. If temperatures outside the car are pleasant, open the windows and let your car cool down for a few minutes before using the vent or AC on low to keep a comfortable air flow in the car.
  • Your air conditioner works the hardest when your car is the hottest. Take steps to reduce your need to run the AC on full blast for long periods by parking in the shade or using a sun visor. This will give you a head start on keeping your car cool and will reduce the time you have to run the AC on its max settings.
  • Remember, running the vent does not burn extra fuel.
  • Body and engine size can affect how well your AC runs. Although new air conditioners are very efficient, they still run directly from a belt attached to the motor. Large vans and SUVs have bigger engines, but more space to cool. A smaller automobile with an average four-cylinder engine can be cooled more efficiently. Consider that when purchasing your next vehicle, especially if you have a long commute.

If you’re concerned about trying to save fuel, try these tips for driving smarter. And it will get hot (at some point this summer) so it might also be worthwhile to make sure you have the proper protection for your car in case you’re the victim of parking lot thefts or mishaps while traveling.

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Does My AC Really Affect My Gas Mileage? ›

Does AC affect gas mileage? As a general answer, a Consumer Reports study found that, yes, running the AC does reduce gas mileage. Here are some tips to help you balance your fuel consumption with comfort. Generally, the air conditioner uses gas, so use it wisely.

How much does AC affect gas mileage? ›

How Much Gas Does a Car's Air Conditioner Use? Switching on your car's air conditioning system will use some gas. There are estimates that the air conditioning system will lower mileage by about 3 MPG.

Does using AC use a lot of gas? ›

The AC in your car may be using more gas than you think; here's what you can do to save money. The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy says running your AC in high heat can reduce your fuel economy by as much as 25%.

Does turning off AC help gas mileage? ›

Does Turning Off the AC Save Gas? If you turn off your AC and roll your windows down on Burlington highways, it actually uses up more gas than if you kept your AC on. This is because the drag that is produced by rolled-down windows forces your engine to work harder to get you where you're going!

Why does AC hurt gas mileage? ›

The AC powers itself using the engine which puts an extra load on the engine making it use more fuel. However, in a small speed frame, it will consume less fuel than running the car with windows down.

How can I save gas while using my AC? ›

Drive with the windows open for a short time before using the AC. Letting hot air out of the cabin first will put less demand on the AC and help your vehicle cool faster. Don't idle with the AC running before driving. Turn the AC on after you begin to drive or after airing out the cabin briefly.

Does colder AC use more gas? ›

As Willey said, the colder the temperature setting, the longer the compressor runs. Since it takes energy, which comes from fuel, to run the compressor, maintaining a lower temperature does take more fuel.

What saves more gas AC or windows down? ›

Well, that depends on a number of factors, including your car, the weather conditions and your speed, among others. However, in general, studies have shown that having your windows down conserves more fuel than running the AC.

Does cruise control save gas? ›

Generally speaking, yes. Cruise control can help you become more fuel-efficient and can help you save an average of 7-14% on gas thanks to its ability to maintain a continuous speed. In comparison, the constant change in acceleration and deceleration of the driver placing their foot over the pedals can eat more gas.

How much extra fuel does AC use? ›

Despite many believing this is a common misconception, air con does in fact increase your fuel consumption. Research has found that by using your air conditioning to control the climate of your vehicle, you can actually increase your fuel consumption by around 8-10%.

How much gas do I save not using AC? ›

Depending on your vehicle's design, an active AC can cut fuel economy by anywhere from 3 percent to 10 percent in standard summertime temperatures. During a brutal heat wave, though, the power drain can be near 20 percent—the hotter it is outside, the harder the AC needs to work at maintaining your cabin climate.

Does driving with no AC save gas? ›

In short, yes, but not really enough to matter, according David Bennett, manager of repair systems for the American Automobile Association (AAA). “The AC system, when operating, does add a slight load to the engine, which could slightly increase gas usage,” he says.

What drains gas in a car? ›

A bad fuel injector or dirty/old fuel filter can drastically affect the flow of fuel into the engine. A fuel system problem is one of the most common causes of poor gas mileage. The more you run your A/C, the lower gas mileage you will get.

What is the most efficient car AC setting? ›

Set A/C to the coldest setting

Your car's air conditioning is most efficient when set to the lowest temperature and adjusting the fan for comfort. Most air conditioning systems cool the air to 3-4 C. A higher temperature forces the system to re-heat the air, burning more fuel.

Is it OK to run car AC while parked? ›

As long as the engine is running and you aren't running low on fuel, you can keep your car idling with the AC on for as long as you'd like. . Running the AC with the engine off will also not produce cool air, since the compressor uses engine power to function.

What is the best temperature for the AC in a car? ›

Tips for operating the air conditioning system

The ideal temperature is between 22 and 25 degrees.

Is it cheaper to keep the AC cold? ›

The short answer is yes, it is cheaper to leave your air conditioner on all day. But this does not mean that you should leave it on full blast, keeping your home so cold that you need a sweater or jacket to be comfortable.

How much gas does idling with AC use? ›

Idling uses up to ½ gallon of fuel per hour (although it varies depending on the type and size of the engine). It may not seem like much, but idling for a few minutes everyday can cost you several dollars per week.

Does speeding use more gas? ›

Speeding increases fuel consumption and decreases fuel economy as a result of tire rolling resistance and air resistance. While vehicles reach optimal fuel economy at different speeds, gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 miles per hour (mph).

Does cracking a window help air conditioning? ›

Even opening a window a crack is going to interfere with your air conditioner's efficiency. This creates vacuum pressure that will force the cool air out of your window and siphon air from other gaps in your home.

What wastes more gas AC or heat? ›

The Reality of HVAC Efficiency Might Surprise You

The research bears it out: heating wastes far more energy than cooling does, sometimes up to more than three times as much energy.

Does driving slower save gas? ›

Going slower theoretically saves fuel, because at high speed your engine needs to work harder to overcome drag from wind resistance, your tyres and transmission – and that drag increases exponentially the faster you go. Reduce your speed, then less power (and thus fuel) needs to be expended to overcome that drag.

Why do cars get better gas mileage on the highway? ›

The mpg is usually higher on highways compared to city driving since city driving necessitates slower speeds, idling, and higher revolutions per minute (rpm). According to Autolist, most vehicles achieve at least five more mpg on the highway than in the city.

When should I not use cruise control? ›

Only use your cruise control when the roadways are dry and clean, and never during rainy or icy conditions. Also, never use cruise control in city or congested traffic as the decreased control of your vehicle could contribute to an accident.

How much fuel can be saved by driving at 70mph instead of 80mph? ›

Travelling at 80mph can use up to 25% more fuel than at 70mph.

Does turning off AC make car faster? ›

Yes. you will be able to experience a little speed in your car when you switch off your A/C and drive. But it will not be worse, as questioned in the subject. Is it better to use your car's AC while driving?

How long does gas last with AC on car? ›

If you own a brand new vehicle your refrigerant gas will last 3-5 years without you running into any major issues as long as you maintain a yearly car aircon service such as a 24-point diagnosis and Performance Check.

Does opening windows use more gas? ›

Opening the windows increases drag, and slows the car down — so it needs more fuel to run. Running the A/C puts an extra load on the engine — so it needs more fuel to run.

What wastes the most gas in a car? ›

Speeding. Speeding shouldn't come as a surprise as one of the top ways to waste gas. When you speed, you force your car to operate at a higher level that requires more gas and the more you speed, the more gas you'll use. For the best MPG performance, our fleet fuel card company suggests driving at a speed of 55-60 mph.

What takes the most gas in a car? ›

Idling your car wastes gas

Idling your car in almost any instance will waste gas, but running the heating at the same time will cause your gas gauge to fall at a more dramatic rate. Put on a coat or extra layer on those cold winter mornings, and turn up the heat after you've started driving.

What lowers MPG? ›

The following five habits can have a distinct impact on your MPG.
  • Excessive Short Trips. Your engine works at its most efficient after it warms up. ...
  • Frequent Cold Weather Travel. ...
  • Heavy Braking or Acceleration. ...
  • High Vehicle Weight or Towing Weight. ...
  • Speeding. ...
  • Fuel Injector Problems. ...
  • Oil Type. ...
  • Poor Maintenance.
Apr 28, 2023

Is it cheaper to leave AC on AUTO? ›

Choosing the Auto Setting

If you set your preferred temperature very low, your air conditioner is still going to run longer than necessary. But using the AUTO setting with a reasonable set temperature will keep your energy costs low, especially if you turn your unit off when you're away from home or asleep.

Should my AC be on AUTO or cool? ›

In Summary. We recommend setting your thermostat to AUTO for the best balance of energy efficiency and comfort. If you are concerned about indoor air quality or suffer from allergies, the ON setting's increased air filtration could be beneficial.

Can I sleep in my car with it running? ›

No, it's not safe to sleep in your car with the engine running. Leaving your car engine turned on while sleeping could lead to dangerous exhaust fumes containing carbon monoxide entering the vehicle.

Is it OK to sit in your car with it on? ›

Sitting in an idling car means you are breathing in more of the dirty exhaust that leaks into the car cabin. Any warmth you may get from a car heater is not worth the damage to your health. If parked and waiting, it is healthier to get out of your car and go inside a store or building.

Can I idle my car for an hour? ›

The truth is that car idling isn't really harmful to your car, but it does have consequences. First of all, idling your car is a gas waster. Letting your car run for just two minutes is the equivalent of driving one mile. Worse, letting your vehicle idle for more than an hour will burn almost a gallon of gas.

Should I turn AC off before turning off car? ›

In short, no, you do not have to turn your air conditioning off before turning off your vehicle. That being said, it never hurts to disable electrical systems, including the fan, before switching off the ignition.

What is the best AC temp for 100 degree weather? ›

What Temperature Should You Set Your Thermostat When It's 100 Degrees? A good rule of thumb is during the hottest days when the dial reaches 100 degrees it is best to set your AC to somewhere between 75 and 80 degrees.

Is 72 a good temp for AC? ›

Since 72 degrees is generally agreed upon to be an ideal indoor temperature, most people would probably still feel comfortable setting their AC units slightly higher than this, perhaps at around 75.

How much gas do you save by turning off the AC? › says "operating the air conditioner on 'Max' can reduce MPG by roughly 5-25 percent compared to not using it." Consumer Reports and says you will lose 1 MPG.

Do you burn more gas with the AC on or windows down? ›

Well, that depends on a number of factors, including your car, the weather conditions and your speed, among others. However, in general, studies have shown that having your windows down conserves more fuel than running the AC.

Is AC better than windows down for gas mileage? ›

While all this might seem like a minor issue, getting it wrong can have a notable impact on your fuel economy; using AC can increase your fuel consumption by as much as 10% but opening the windows at higher speeds can increase fuel consumption by as much as 20%.

Is it cheaper to leave air conditioner on all day? ›

Conclusion. The answer to the question “is it cheaper to leave your air conditioner on all day?” is a resounding yes. You'll save money on your energy and repair bills, especially during the summer months.

Is it cheaper to leave AC on or turn off? ›

Leaving your air conditioner on is actually more efficient than frequently turning it on and off. Having your AC on also allows you to better control humidity in your home throughout the day. The lower the humidity in a home, the more comfortable it feels during hot weather.

What should I keep my AC on to save money? ›

Energy Saver recommends setting your air conditioner to 78 degrees when you wake up, 85 degrees during the day, and 82 degrees when you're sleeping to save the most money.

Should you open car windows before turning on AC? ›

Please do NOT turn on A/C as soon as you enter the car. Open the windows after you enter your car and then after a couple of minutes, turn ON the AC. Here's why: According to research, the car's dashboard, seats, a/c ducts, in fact ALL of the plastic objects in your vehicle, emit Benzene, a Cancer causing toxin.

Does running the AC cost more gas? ›

Running The AC Will Lower Your Vehicle's Fuel Efficiency

While the total impact will vary based on the car you're driving , you can always expect your fuel efficiency to be decreased. If you're keeping your AC running all the time, you're going to be using more gas.

Does opening car windows waste gas? ›

Opening the windows increases drag, and slows the car down — so it needs more fuel to run. Running the A/C puts an extra load on the engine — so it needs more fuel to run.

Is it more efficient to keep AC on or AUTO? ›

There are benefits to having your air conditioner set to “auto” and “on.” The benefits of the “auto” setting include higher efficiency, lower energy bills, better humidity control, less wear and tear on some components, and quieter running.

Is it cheaper to run AC at higher temperature? ›

One simple way to decrease energy costs is having a higher temperature setting on the thermostat when nobody is home. While you might be tempted to simply turn the AC off, it's actually better to adjust the temperature several degrees higher, by about 7-10 degrees.

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