Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Use Your Car Air Conditioner

Even if your vehicle is sweltering hot in the summertime, you may want to reconsider turning on your car air conditioner. Here's why.

car air conditionerGreg McGill/Shutterstock

There are few things more uncomfortable than a hot car on a humid day. As summer reaches full swing and temperatures rise, you’ll invariably crank up your car air conditioner more and more. But if you’re trying to save fuel and money, you may want to reconsider turning the car air conditioner on.

Do Car Air Conditioners Burn More Gas?

There have been multiple debates on which method of vehicle cooling is more fuel efficient: air conditioning or driving with the windows down. There’s no doubt both cause more fuel to be burned. The question is, which burns more.

Open windows increase drag while driving, and running the A/C burns fuel to run. Eager to prove conclusively which option had greater impact on overall miles-per-gallon (mpg), the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and General Motors did a controlled study comparing the fuel efficiency of driving with the car air conditioner on to driving with the windows down.

Driving With Your Windows Down

After comparing cars at speeds of 31, 50 and 68 mph in 86 degree F weather, they concluded driving with the windows down is more fuel efficient than running the A/C. The test also measured the fuel efficiency of closed windows and no A/C, which was significantly better on fuel than the other two.

Extreme Weather Temperatures

So if you need to cool off during a hot summer drive, consider rolling the windows down. Though some experts say A/C is the wiser option for fuel economy, multiple tests have shown otherwise. But the difference doesn’t appear to be as great when conditions aren’t extremely hot.

Driving with the windows down isn’t the only way to save money on gas. We have a ton of tips for better gas mileage and fuel economy that are worth implementing.