(866) 924-4608

We Buy All Cars, Running or Not!

(866) 924-4608 FAST CASH OFFER
How Long Can a Car Run on Empty

How Long Can a Car Run on Empty

As soon as that little fuel light comes on, how long can a car run on empty? The answer is, it depends. Occasionally driver's would let the gas tank get low enough to set off the low fuel warning light. Although we all know it's best to keep your gas tank at least a quarter full, sometimes the inevitable happens. But knowing the estimate and the factors of how far you can travel on an empty tank of gas can help you avoid being stranded on the side of the road. 

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


Many motorists have been left stranded and perplexed at the side of the road because they either forgot to gas up or are playing the game of “how far can I go before I have to fill up my tank?” 


A popular misconception is that a car can drive for 40-50 miles after the fuel light turns on, but proving this is difficult. So, can you trust the fuel gauge on your dashboard? In this post, we'll show you how far you can drive after the fuel light has been lit, the dangers of running on an empty fuel tank,  and what you can do to boost your gas mileage.

Factors That Will Determine How Long Can a Car Run on Empty


The definite answer on how long can a car run on empty gas tank is determined by the road conditions, your driving habits and whether you are driving on a long empty winding road or stuck in a traffic jam in the city. When stuck in traffic and your vehicle has estimated range on the fuel gauge based on average miles driven then the fuel gauge might not be very reliable.


Also while most drivers believe the average range is 50 miles, the truth is that it varies greatly depending on the make and model. So don't depend on the 50-miles estimate, and instead of driving around with the low-fuel light on, consider it a final warning.


The gas light on various vehicles is designed differently, but most cars fuel light illuminate  when there are around 2 to 3 gallons (7.5 to 11 liters) left in the tank. It's different for some larger vehicles.  When there are about 4 gallons (15 liters), or about 1/16th of a tank, left in some trucks and SUVs, the fuel empty indicator already illuminates. 


For the top 50 best-selling vehicles in the United States in 2015, here is the range of how many miles you can travel – as well as the point at which the alarm light illuminates according to YourMechanic:

How Far Can You Drive Your Vehicle on Empty? 
Make Model Gas Remaining When Fuel Light is triggered Miles remaining When Fuel Light is triggered Make Model Gas Remaining When Fuel Light is triggered Miles remaining When Fuel Light is triggered
Ford F-150 1/16th of a tank 35-80 Hyundai Elantra Not available 30
Chevrolet Silverado Not available 25 Ford Explorer 1/16th of a tank 35-80
Ram 1500 3 gallons 63-87 Chevrolet Cruze 2 gallons 56-84
Toyota Camry 2.6 gallons 65-91 Ford Focus 1/16th of a tank 35-80
Toyota Corolla 2 gallons 60-84 GMC Sierra Denali 4 gallons 64-92
Nissan Altima 3 gallons 81-114 Hyundai Sonata Not available 40
Honda Accord 2.6 gallons 70-93 Jeep Cherokee 3 gallons 66-93
Honda CR-V 2.3 gallons 62-78 Nissan Sentra 2 gallons 60-80
Honda Civic 1.9 gallons 59-80 Jeep Wrangler 2.8 gallons 47-58
Ford Fusion 1/16th of a tank 35-80 Chrysler 200 3 gallons 69-108
Ford Escape 1/16th of a tank 35-80 Chevrolet Malibu 2 gallons 50-72
Toyota RAV4 2.4 gallons 57-74 Jeep Grand Cherokee 3 gallons 66-90
Chevrolet Equinox Not available 50 Toyota Tacoma 3 gallons 63-75
Nissan Rogue 3 gallons 78-99 Subaru Forester 2.6 gallons 62-83


How Far Can You Drive Your Vehicle on Empty? Based From YourMechanic (Part 2)
Make Model Gas Remaining When Fuel Light is triggered Miles remaining When Fuel Light is triggered Make Model Gas Remaining When Fuel Light is triggered Miles remaining When Fuel Light is triggered
Kia Optima Not available 30 Chevrolet Traverse 2.5 gallons 42-60
Toyota Highlander 2.9 gallons 58-72 Toyota Tundra 4 gallons 60-72
Kia Soul Not available 30 Jeep Patriot 2 gallons 46-60
Toyota Sienna 3 gallons 54-75 Toyota Prius 1.6 gallons 76-81
Subaru Outback 2.6 gallons 65-85 Hyundai Santa Fe Not available 40
Nissan Versa 2.6 gallons 65-85 Kia Sorento Not available 40
Volkswagen Jetta 1.85 gallons 57-85 Chevrolet Impala 2 gallons 44-62
Honda Odyssey 3 gallons 57-84 Ford Transit 1/16th of a tank 35-80
Honda Pilot 2.5 gallons 45-62 Mazda 3 2.3 gallons 69-94
Ford Mustang 1/16th of a tank 35-80 Mazda CX-5 2.6 gallons 67-91
Ford Edge 1/16th of a tank 35-80 GMC Terrain Not available 50


Many modern cars have an estimate of how many miles you can travel before running out of gas. Bear in mind, though, that these mileage forecasts are just estimates. Sitting in traffic, traveling at high speeds, or ascending a steep hill may all have a significant effect on these figures. If your vehicle model is not mentioned above, consult your owner’s manual.


How Long Can a Car Run on Empty: Dangers of Driving With An Empty Tank


According to experts, you can still keep your gas tank at least a quarter full. Obviously, keeping a little gas in your tank will prevent you from getting into a precarious situation where you're low on gas and too far from a gas station to fuel up, but there are other, less apparent reasons you have to worry about besides how long can a car run on empty gas tank. 


Driving on a nearly empty tank, or even one that's getting close to the bottom, can result in these other very compromising situations:

  • You won't get very far running on empty, but your car's catalytic converter, which is part of the exhaust system, could be damaged in the moments before you stall out.

  • By running your tank too low, you risk getting debris trapped in your fuel pump. 


This could happen because any small particles that make their way into the gas tank settle at the bottom and tend to remain there until your car is frantically trying to scavenge the last drop of fuel. Any debris in your tank will be sucked up by the fuel pump as it sucks up the last of your fuel, and the particles will get trapped in your fuel pump or fuel filter.

  • Running your car with your engine low could also cause your fuel pump to overheat and cause it to wear out too soon.


The gas tanks in older cars (from the 1980s and earlier) are normally made of metal, and as they corrode, harmful deposits may form in the bottom. But it’s also not looking so good for newer cars that have plastic fuel tanks — because sediment from polluted fuel normally finds its way inside.


However, having annoying sediments trapped in your fuel pump isn't the only way you can damage it. In certain vehicles, the fuel pump is housed in the gas tank, and as the gas flows around the pump, it serves as insulation and lubricant.  But  if you run your gas tank dry on a regular basis, the fuel pump will overheat, causing it to wear out prematurely.


Some newer cars have an instrument cluster monitor that keeps track of your range, or how far you can travel on your current tank of gas. Again although these graphs are fairly reliable, they are only estimates. The accuracy of this gauge can be affected by changing road conditions or a variety of other factors, leaving you stranded if you're really cutting it tight.

  • Running out of gas will cause the fuel pump to go dry and get damaged resulting in a significant repair bill.


The engine management system in diesel cars shuts down before the car runs out of fuel, preventing damage to the vehicle. However, there is no such program in place for gasoline vehicles.

  • Running car on an empty tank also causes engine misfires.


When your car is running on empty, the fuel pump can begin to take in air, indicating that the engine isn't getting the gas it needs on a consistent basis. Engine misfires are common as a result of this. This would most definitely feel like a lack of control, hesitation, or sensation to you. It's bad for your engine, and it could lead to bigger problems down the road.

  • Another issue that should be taken seriously is being stranded. You could be driving down the highway with vehicles whizzing by at high speeds. This can be dangerous, particularly if you've broken down after a sharp curve in the road.


It should be easier to break the habit now that you realize driving on empty is bad for your car. You should prevent such things from happening by not worrying about how long can a car run on empty tank, but by worrying how to prevent these situations. You might not damage your car immediately when you're running low on gas for the first or second time. Just don’t make driving on a nearly empty tank a habit. You'll be fine if you make it a habit to top up once your fuel gauge hits the quarter mark. 


How Long Can a Car Run on Empty: What to Do if You Got Caught Up with an Empty Fuel Tank


If you're driving along and your car starts to sputter because you skipped or missed seeing your low fuel light, there are a few things you can do right away. Here are a few things you must do:


  1. Switch off the air conditioning to relieve engine tension and save money on gas. Unplug both machines and switch off the stereo. In short, switch off all electronic devices. 


  1. Unplug any phones that are charging.


  1. To minimize drag, roll up the windows and drive as slowly as possible until you hit a gas station. Rolling up your windows can reduce wind resistance.


  1. Drive at a speed of about 40 mph, which is the most fuel-efficient (provided this is within the speed limit).


  1. Maintain a steady pace when driving with a light foot.


  1. Check the tire pressure because under-inflated tires will lead to higher fuel consumption.


When your car eventually runs out of fuel, it will be clear. Engine misfires can cause some brief hesitation, which is your first warning sign. When this occurs your engine will be shutting down shortly and the vehicle will lose control. So if driving to the next gas station is just not possible here’s what you should do:


  • If at all necessary, switch on your hazard lights and pull off the road into a safe spot. Look for a safe spot to pull over before you run out of gas if you know you won't make it to a gas station. Pull off to a safe side of the road, and it should always be away from the traffic.


  • Call for assistance. The next move should be to seek assistance. You may contact a nearby friend or family member, or the emergency roadside assistance provider. If those don't work, consider calling a towing company or the local police department's non-emergency number.


If you’re wondering how long can a car run on empty fuel tank, you might also be wondering how much gasoline will it take to start a vehicle after it runs out of gas. The answer is that it just takes around a gallon of gas to restart your engine. However, regardless of how much gas you put in the tank, make sure it's enough to get you to the nearest gas station if you have decided to temporarily refill your gas tank just to get to the fuel station. .


Driving on an empty fuel tank can sometimes be inevitable, so you must really question how long can a car run on empty fuel tank. Knowing how many miles of range you have left is critical in that case. It's a good idea to figure this out ahead of time so you'll be ready when the tank gets really low to prevent a breakdown. If you notice that you're running out of fuel much faster than anticipated make sure to have your vehicle inspected to rule out fuel leak.