The 5 Differences Between Torque and Horsepower

The 5 Differences Between Torque and Horsepower

August 16, 2019    Car Facts

There are five key differences between torque and horsepower to know if you’re buying a new or used car. This guide highlights how to tell torque and horsepower apart and why they matter for your next vehicle purchase.

When you’re buying a new or used vehicle, you’ll likely want to take a look at what’s under the hood. Understanding the differences between torque and horsepower is helpful for making a final buying decisions. Here’s what you need to know about the two as you navigate your car-buying journey.

5 Differences Between Torque and Horsepower

First, here’s a little background on what torque and horsepower actually are. Both are basically a byproduct of your car’s engine when you turn on the ignition and hit the gas. They’re a part of the process involved in converting the air and fuel within the engine into the energy needed to make your car move.

Now that we’ve gotten that down, let’s look a little closer at the differences between torque vs. hp for acceleration:

1. They measure different things

Simply put, torque is a way to measure force. Specifically, it’s a measurement of the rotational force within your car’s engine at the crankshaft.

Horsepower, on the other hand, measures the amount of power that’s transferred from the engine to the wheels. This measurement is based on the weight of the object that’s being moved (in this case, your car), the distance it moves and the time in which it covers that distance. A simple way to calculate horsepower is to multiply torque by rotations per minute or RPMs/5,252.

2. They work differently for vehicle acceleration

When you press the gas pedal, your vehicle moves through a combination of torque and horsepower. But in terms of how they help you accelerate, they each have their own function.

In a nutshell, it’s torque’s job to get your car moving when you initially accelerate. Once the car is going, it’s horsepower that helps you get up to and maintain speed for your drive.

3. Torque is more important for towing

If you routinely haul trailers, campers, boats or anything else, then torque is what matters for reducing strain on your vehicle and pulling the load.

Torque is what helps your vehicle start and navigate hills and it can be more powerful than horsepower for keeping your engine running smoothly when you have a heavy load. A higher torque vehicle, such as a heavy-duty truck, may take more time to accelerate but it’s the low-end power nature of torque that makes hauling possible

4. Horsepower is all about vehicle performance

High-horsepower vehicles are designed for drivers who want speed and power under the hood. The higher a vehicle’s horsepower rating, the faster it’s likely to go, relative to its size.

A sports car, for example, may outpace a large sedan even if it has the same horsepower rating it the sports car is lighter or more compact. A car with more horsepower could also offer better handling on the roads.

Vehicles with higher horsepower ratings do still rely on torque, however. These cars are designed to have the right balance between torque and horsepower for the best driving experience possible.

5. Torque and horsepower are not equal for fuel efficiency

The last difference between torque and horsepower may be the most important to you if you want a vehicle that’s as fuel-efficient as possible.

Both affect fuel efficiency but in different ways. The more horsepower a car has, the faster it’s going to burn fuel, both on acceleration and under normal driving conditions. Conversely, the more low-end torque a vehicle has, the slower it may burn fuel, depending on your typical driving and hauling habits.

One last thing to note is that the amount of torque and horsepower a vehicle has can affect the rate of wear and tear it experiences. That’s important to know if you’re planning to sell at some point and you want to maximize resale value. If you’re in the market for a new or used vehicle, consider Birchwood Credit Solutions’ wide inventory selection to find the right combination of torque and horsepower.

At Birchwood Credit Solutions, we’re committed to helping you get financing for your car-buying needs. We serve a variety of customers, including newcomers to Canada as well as people of all credit backgrounds. To get started with financing today, complete our online application to find a vehicle that works for your budget and lifestyle.

Rebecca Lake
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