Windows Down vs. Air Conditioner: Which Is More Efficient?

The debate over whether driving with windows down or the air conditioner is more fuel efficient is as old as the day AC was invented. But truthfully, neither options are all that great for your vehicle’s efficiency.

Driving with your windows down decreases the aerodynamics and increases the drag, which slows down the vehicle. But driving with the AC puts more stress on the engine. Either way, your vehicle is going to need more fuel to run. The trick is figuring out when to use which option and using them correctly.

Girl in a car

Driving With Windows Down

The best time to drive with the windows down is on city streets and suburban roads. On these roads, the speed limit is normally under 45 miles per hour. This is important because a slower speed means less air resistance, which leads to more fuel-efficient travel.

Driving With Air Conditioner On

On the contrary, the best time to drive with the air conditioner is on highways. Rolling your windows down at such high speeds on the highway would reduce your vehicle’s aerodynamics.

Even though driving with the air conditioner on puts more load on the engine, it does not affect fuel efficiency as much as driving with the windows down would. This means that neither option is good, but overall, driving with the air conditioner on the highway is the better option.

But do not fret – you can help improve your fuel efficiency even more when driving on the highway with the AC on. Make sure you are using just the right amount of AC needed. A majority of drivers blast the AC for a few minutes, turn it down, and then turn it back up again when it starts to get warmer inside the cabin. Instead, drivers should keep the air conditioner set at a proper temperature to keep the cabin regulated.

How To Improve Fuel Efficiency

Aside from using the two different methods at different times, there are many other ways to help improve your vehicle’s fuel economy during hot weather. When possible, try to park in the shade – this will ensure the inside of your vehicle does not get as hot.

If you plan on driving with the AC, roll the windows down for a few minutes to help get all the hot air out of the cabin. This will help the inside of your vehicle cool down faster.

You should also not idle with the AC running. It is better to turn the AC on after you begin to drive. The vehicle will be able to reach a cooler temperature faster if the vehicle is in motion.

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