Do Cars Consume More Fuel In Warm or Cold Weather?

Do you know that the cold winter air is 11% denser than the warm humid air?

Do you also know that cars’ fuel consumption increases by approximately 1.3% in winter? These stats already answer the question.

Find out in this article how fuel is consumed more in winter than in summer. 

Here’s An In-Depth Answer to Whether Cars Consume More Fuel In Winter or Summer

A fuel economy test shows that the gas mileage of an ICE vehicle roughly decreases by 15% at 20°F than it would be at 77°F while during summer, your fuel economy increases because your engine warms up at an efficient temperature. This is clear proof that fuel loss is more likely in winter than in summer.

How Does Temperature Affect Gas Mileage In Cars?

Both hot and cold temperatures influence the gas mileage of a car. In winter, cars consume more fuel and maximise fuel in summer.

Let us dive into the number of things the cold weather may do to the gas mileage of a car.

Transmission and Engine Friction

The transmission fluid and engine oil may thicken because of the cold weather. This means that the oil won’t flow freely as it should.

Parts of the transmission may also contract, and sometimes, the gears can freeze, which leads to slipping.

Long Warmup Time

Driving in winter, especially for short journeys, can be a problem because it is more difficult for the car to reach the appropriate temperature in such a short time.

This ultimately affects your trip to the grocery or to a friend’s because your car spends most of its time at a less optimal temperature.

Additional Strain on Battery

Driving in winter will probably increase the use of your vehicle’s climate options such as the heated seats, window defrosters, heated steering wheels and heater fans.

These options draw extra power from the vehicle.

Warming Up the Car Can Be Such a Pain

Asides from the constant waiting to warm up your car before driving, warming up the vehicle can also bite into its fuel economy. 

Aerodynamic Drag

The cold air is typically denser that warm air, which increases the aerodynamic drag of the vehicle. Aerodynamic drag is the resistance of the air against a moving object.

When a car speeds up, the drag force pulls its back to reduce the speed, which ultimately affects the fuel economy of the vehicle.

Battery Performance 

Cold weather has a more horrible effect on electric vehicles, hybrids, or plug-in hybrids.

According to, the fuel efficiency of hybrids in winter can drop about 30% to 34% while for electric vehicles, their fuel economy roughly loses 39% in city and highway driving.

EVs also lose as much as 41% of their range in winter because about two-thirds of the battery is used to heat the cabin.

For a warmer clime, your engine works at an optimal condition that can aid fuel economy. Also, there’s little or no aerodynamic drag in summer, so the body of the car moves without stress.

However, it becomes an issue when the temperature becomes too hot, as you will need to use the air conditioning system of the vehicle to reduce this heat.

Unfortunately, long hours of using the air conditioning could significantly reduce your fuel economy, especially if the outside temperature is extreme.

The AC would have to deliver more cooling air and in that process, can reduce the fuel economy by as much as 25%, particularly on short trips. This percentage is greater with electric vehicles, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids.

Also, opening your windows in hot weather increases the aerodynamic drag, making your vehicle use more energy to move through the air. However, this effect is more distinct on highway journeys than on city driving.

Related: Car Leaking Water From Air Condition? (8 Questions Answered)

How Much Do AC and Heating Affect Mileage?

The air conditioning of a car is just a bunch of machines that operate together to cool down the interior of your vehicle. Since machines thrive on power, it draws this energy from your vehicle.

Thus, running the car on air conditioning will cut into the fuel economy of your vehicle. For more emphasis, EPA states that fuel loss can be as much as 25%.

This means that if a car gets 30 mpg without the AC on, it can lose about 7.5 mpg when the air conditioning is turned on. However, these stats vary on a lot of factors, such as the outside temperature, humidity and intensity of the sun.

Using the heating system does not make any significant difference in the fuel economy of a vehicle. This does not mean the heater does not use fuel, it does.

But the heater utilizes the excess heat formed during engine operation, so the fuel used is reasonable. If you decide to turn off your heater to save fuel, it won’t make much of a difference as against using the air conditioning system. 

Do Cars Burn More Oil in the Winter Season?

We would not say that engine oil is typically consumed more in winter, but the cold weather may have an effect on the flow of oil to the parts of the engine. 

In worst-case scenarios, the engine oil can totally freeze in winter. This can cause a lot of problems for the engine because ordinarily, the engine itself struggles to perform at an optimal level in winter. Insufficient engine oil may just cause more problems for the engine.

If you notice your engine oil freezes in winter, you might consider buying synthetic oil on your next trip to the mall. Synthetic oil retains its viscosity better than other oils and can fight against freezing even in extreme temperatures.

Related: Winter Tires & Gas Mileage: Basic Facts to Know

Do Cars Consume More Gas In Winter or Summer?

More gas is consumed in winter than in summer. According to, a liter of winter gas has less energy than a liter of summer gas, typically between 1.5% to 3%. 

In summer blends, you get better gas mileage because the gasoline has a higher density and energy by about 2% than a winter blend.

The only downside to using fuel in summer is that the prices of gas increase every summer because most energy companies conduct maintenance on their refineries, which they may not open until late May.

Because of this gap, oil supplies can be disrupted and prices may go up. Natural disasters like hurricanes can affect prices, as they may disrupt transport routes and other infrastructures.

Last, prices increase because the oil produced by refineries in summer differs greatly from that made in summer as they add some ingredients to release fewer toxins into the air.

How Do You Improve Fuel Economy in Hot and Cold Weather?

Below are highlighted points to help you make informed decisions during extreme temperatures.

Hot Weather

  • Roll the windows down at lower speeds and use the AC for highway driving.
  • Park under a shade, away from direct sunlight.
  • Before turning on the air conditioning, drive for a few minutes with your windows down to let out the hot air from the cabin. 
  • Don’t idle the car with the AC turned on.
  • For EVs and Hybrids, turn on the pre-cooling feature while you plug in the vehicle.
  • Read your manuals.

Cold Weather 

  • Park your car in a warm place.
  • Combine trips so that you have to drive less.
  • Don’t overuse seat warmers or defrosters.
  • Minimize idling as much as possible.
  • Check your tire pressure as often as you can.
  • Remove accessories that increase wind resistance.
  • Use a manufacturer-recommended oil and fuel.
  • Read your manuals.

Related: Tire Pressure In The Summer & Increase Or Decrease? (Explained)


Fuel Economy In Cold Weather | 

Fuel Economy In Hot Weather| 

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