Why does fuel economy get worse in winter?

By Product Expert | Posted in Tips & Tricks on Thursday, December 27th, 2018 at 10:08 pm
Car driving through snow

Why are cars less efficient in the winter?

According to a study performed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the average gasoline-powered car’s fuel economy can be reduced anywhere from 12% to 34% in winter, depending on travel and weather conditions. These results are shocking to many drivers, who may ask: Why are cars less efficient in the winter? We’ve done the research to answer this question for you and we’ve come up with a list of reasons why.


Read More: Ways to Keep Your Vehicle’s Engine from Overheating


There are many factors that play a role in determining fuel economy, from travel distance and road condition to temperature and air density. Winter weather conditions have a negative impact on several of these factors in terms of fuel efficiency. Thankfully, there are many ways for drivers to mitigate these differences, such as winter tires.

How Cold Weather Impacts Your Car’s Fuel Economy

Close-up on a vehicle's tire in the snow

Internal Factors

A cold climate causes several changes to occur in a vehicle that reduce efficiency. As the temperature gets colder, tire pressure decreases as well. Cold air is also more dense than warm air, which means vehicles are less aerodynamic in winter. Defrosters, heater fans and heated seating all use additional vehicle power, which hinders fuel economy as well.

A forested road in winter

External Factors

Icy roads can also negatively impact a vehicle’s fuel economy. Non-winter tires struggle to grip icy roads properly, which wastes energy and greatly increases the amount of fuel the vehicle needs to use to move. In severe winter weather conditions that require drivers to travel below the speed limit, fuel gets wasted due to the slow driving speed.

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