If you’re in the market for a new or second-hand car, it’s likely you are very aware of the miles per gallon the vehicles you look at are getting. Whether or not a specific MPG of 15, 16, 17, 18, or 19 is good depends on several factors. In this blog post, we’ll discuss all these factors. However, let’s start with a quick answer:
An MPG between 15 to 19 isn’t considered good for lighter passenger vehicles with a wheelbase shorter than 121 inches because these vehicles typically achieve an MPG of 24.4. However, an MPG of 15 – 19 is considered average for heavier passenger vehicles with a wheelbase of 121 inches or higher because these achieve an MPG of 17.9 on average.
However, that certainly doesn’t answer the question entirely. The article below will make several distinctions between lighter and heavier passenger vehicles. We’ll also look at the MPG of other vehicles and discuss if a 15 – 19 MPG is good for a second-hand car and if this makes any difference. Read on!
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Good MPGs for Cars, SUVs, and Trucks
First, we have to make a clear distinction between the types of vehicles we’re analyzing in this blog post. As one can imagine, there’s a significant difference between the fuel efficiency of a lightweight car compared to that of an SUV, truck, or van.
Lighter, Passenger Vehicles
First, we’re going to look at lighter passenger vehicles. However, we need to define what this category means. For this, we’ve used data from the Federal Highway Administration. They classify passenger cars, light trucks, vans, and sport utility vehicles with a wheelbase less than or equal to 121 inches.
For reference, this includes all vehicles with a shorter wheelbase than a GMC Yukon (which has a wheelbase of 120.9 inches). Other examples that fall into this category are the Toyota RAV4 (105.9 inches), Ford Explorer (119.1 inches), and a Toyota Camry (111.2 inches).
For this vehicle category, we found that the average MPG is 24.4. Therefore, an MPG between 15 – 19 would be considered far below average for vehicles with a wheelbase below 121 inches.
Furthermore, we have to consider that many vehicles in this category are turning into hybrid or electric vehicles. Hybrids typically get an MPG between 50 – 60, whereas electric vehicles are even more efficient in energy usage.
Heavier, Passenger Vehicles
Secondly, there’s the category of large passenger cars, vans, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles with
wheelbases greater than 121 inches. In this category, we find the Ford F-150 (122 – 163 inches), Chevy Suburban (134.1 inches), Chevy Express (135.2 – 155.2 inches), the Ford Expedition (122.5 inches) and the GMC Sierra (142 inches).
According to the data from the FHWA, passenger vehicles with a wheelbase greater than 121 inches have an average MPG of 17.9. An MPG between 15 – 19 is considered average for a vehicle that falls into this category.
However, we’ve also seen that this vehicle category is not as quickly transitioning to the hybrid/all-electric era. For this reason, an MPG of 15 – 19 will most likely be an average MPG for a lot longer compared to the smaller vehicles.
Besides cars, SUVs, vans, and trucks, there are, of course, multiple other forms of vehicles. Each one has its distinct fuel economy. Below, we’ve classified the different types of vehicles for which data was available to see if a 15 – 19 MPG is considered good.
- Motorcycles: have an average MPG of 44, a 15 – 19 MPG is therefore considered terrible.
- Single-unit trucks (2 axles, 6 tires or more, 10,000+lbs): average MPG of 7.5, a 15 – 19 MPG would be considered fantastic.
- Combination trucks (1 or more trailers): average MPG of 6.1, a 15 – 19 MPG would be fantastic.
- Buses: average MPG of 7.3, a 15 – 19 MPG would be considered fantastic.
Is There A Difference Between The MPG of New And Used Vehicles?
Many people assume that, with time, the fuel efficiency of a vehicle goes down. They, therefore, wonder if an MPG of 15 – 19 isn’t acceptable for older vehicles. However, this is not necessarily the case.
First of all, it’s essential to know that the fuel economy of a vehicle doesn’t deteriorate significantly over time. This is because a car’s engines and other components are designed to last close to or more than 200,000 miles. With proper maintenance, a car’s fuel economy should stay close to its original numbers throughout its life. There’s simply no data to suggest otherwise.
However, what matters is the year the vehicle was produced. Data from Energy.gov suggest that vehicles made before 1980 or between 1999 – 2006 had an MPG of 20 or lower to begin with. If you’re buying a used vehicle from these time periods, a 15 – 19 MPG would therefore be considered average and expected from the car.
Other Factors That Influence MPG
Besides the standard MPG that manufacturers aim for in their vehicles, there are other factors that influence the MPG of a vehicle. In this subheading, we want to discuss the two that will affect the MPG the most. However, this doesn’t mean that factors like tire pressure and drive style don’t affect your MPG. However, they do so a lot less.
City, Combined, Or Highway Driving
Besides what kind of vehicle you’re driving, the most important factor is where you’re driving. City driving is much worse for fuel economy than highway driving is. The constant acceleration which is needed in city driving reduces MPG because accelerating is one of the least fuel-efficient activities.
For example, a Ford F150 with 4WD and a 3.0L engine has a combined MPG of 23, a city MPG of 20, and a highway MPG of 27. In a similar scenario, the 2.5L Toyota Camry has a combined MPG of 32, a city MPG of 28, and a highway MPG of 39.
A rough calculation suggests that city driving is 10 – 15% less fuel-efficient than combined city-highway driving. Furthermore, city driving is 20 – 25% less fuel-efficient than highway-only driving.
However, in all these cases, an MPG of 15 – 19 still isn’t considered good. Even a modern-day F150 can achieve an MPG of 20 during city driving, which indicates anything below that, even when driving in the city, isn’t respectable.
Colder Or Warmer Temperatures
Another factor that significantly impacts the fuel economy of a vehicle is the outside temperature. In passenger cars, and in city driving, fuel economy is roughly 15% lower at 20°F than it would be at 77°F. Furthermore, hybrids and electric vehicles are hit much harder with drops of 30 – 34% and 39%, respectively.
There’re multiple reasons why fuel efficiency is lower in colder temperatures. These include, but are not limited to:
- Increased friction of the parts because of colder parts
- It takes longer for the engine to reach its optimum temperature
- Higher energy uses from heaters, heated seats, and window defrosters
- Decreased tire pressure
- Higher drag because colder air is denser
Hi! My name is Stefan; I’m the owner and lead writer at TheDriverAdviser.com.
I’m an active writer on this blog myself, as well as a novice car mechanic. For the really technical stuff, I find writers with experience as a mechanic or who have studied mechanical engineering.
Read more about our fantastic team on our about page!