How much gas does it take to warm up a car?

Consumer Reports News: March 13, 2007 06:10 PM

Several GM models in our test fleet have a handy remote start function, which allows you to turn on the parked car from up to 200 feet away. Other manufactures, such as Ford and Chrysler, also offer this convenience. But while we enjoyed getting into a nice, warm car this winter, we were curious about how much fuel it used. We understand that people in warmer climate - such as Florida - also use this trick to cool off a car.

Our Buick Lucerne V8 has this feature (part of the $795 Driver Confidence Package option). And as it was all rigged with our fuel-measuring equipment, we decided to calculate the cost for a typical morning warm up.

Here is how it worked out:

Model: Buick Lucerne (4.6-liter V8)
Warm-up time: 10 minutes
Outside temperature: 41-degrees F
Fuel used: .12 gallons x $3.00/gallon
Total cost: .36 cents

It's very likely that a smaller engine would cost even less to run. And, keep in mind that a warm engine likely gets better fuel economy than a cold one. We'll look more into this in the future, as we plan to use an auto-start car to do a city-cycle fuel economy test from a cold start and compare to these results to a warmed-up car to get a better estimate of the cost of using this creature-comfort feature.

But as it stands now, dollar for dollar, allowing a Buick V8 to warm up for 10 minutes costs about a fourth the price of a single bottled water.

--Mike Quincy

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