Does My AC Really Affect My Gas Mileage?

car interior dashboard with AC controls

East coast residents from Boston to New Jersey have famously bad commutes and spend a lot of time in their cars (or Crashbusters® 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 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. 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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