Revealed: how far your car will really get once the fuel light comes on

Revealed: how far your car will really get once the fuel light comes on
Revealed: how far your car will really get once the fuel light comes on

Some motorists seem to thrive playing fuel light bingo, running their car down to its last reserves, while others live in terror of the illuminated warning that they’re running low on fuel.

Now, new research has discovered just how far your car will go once it’s in the red, offering relief for some and spoiling the fun for others.

The study compared the real-world range of nearly 100 cars and found some huge differences between popular models.

Underestimating

The 10 cars with longest reserve range

  1. VW Passat – 75.02 miles
  2. Volvo V40 – 70.6
  3. Ford Mondeo – 70.02
  4. BMW 5 Series – 68.33
  5. Toyota Prius – 66.62
  6. Mercedes E-class – 64.02
  7. Audi Q5 – 63.82
  8. Range Rover Sport – 63.35
  9. Mazda 6 – 62.97
  10. Audi A6 – 62.06

According to a survey by Comparethemarket, more than a third of drivers believe their car will only cover 20 miles once the fuel warning light comes on. But the study found that on average cars can cover more than twice that distance (around 50 miles) on their reserves, with some models managing closer to 80 miles.

Volkswagen’s Passat came out as the best performer based on the comparison site’s calculations – travelling an impressive 75 miles while in the red. The Volvo V40 just beat the Ford Mondeo to second place, managing 70.6 miles to the Ford’s 70.02.

Volvo came out as the brand with the overall best performance, averaging 58.83 miles from the light coming on to finally running out of fuel.

At the other end of the scale the high-performance BMW M3 managed just 31.99 miles, with the Kia Picanto (32.14) and Fiat 500 (37.14) close behind.

The 10 cars with the shortest reserve range

  1. BMW M3 – 31.99 miles
  2. Kia Picanto – 32.14
  3. Fiat 500 – 37.14
  4. Mini Cooper – 37.52
  5. Mitsubishi Shogun – 38.23
  6. Jaguar XK – 38.38
  7. Citroen C1 – 38.76
  8. Peugeot 108 – 39.14
  9. Nissan Juke – 40.84
  10. Ford Fiesta – 41.07

Small cars like the Kia and Fiat dominated the lower reaches of the table due to their smaller fuel tanks while large saloons and SUVs with far larger tanks managed more miles despite being less fuel efficient.

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As a brand, Mini was the worst performing with its models covering an average of 37.52 miles before running out of fuel.

The ranges of 96 models were calculated assuming that the reserve light comes on at 10 per cent capacity and comparing the manufacturers’ data on fuel tank size to real-world fuel economy submitted by owners.

Can you be fined for running out of fuel?

A long walk to the filling station could be the least of your worries if you break down in the wrong place. (Picture: Shutterstock)
A long walk to the filling station could be the least of your worries if you break down in the wrong place. (Picture: Shutterstock)

Running out of fuel is clearly an inconvenience and a safety risk if you’re left stranded at the roadside. But there is a lot of confusion around whether you can be fined for breaking down due to running dry.

There is no offence of running out of fuel and the law actually says that running out of fuel is a legitimate reason for using the hard shoulder on a motorway.

However, especially on smart motorways where there is no hard shoulder, you could be considered to be causing an obstruction if you stop due to running out of fuel.

In such circumstances police could view this as careless or inconsiderate driving, which carries a £100 fine and three penalty points. Should your stopped car cause an accident, you could end up in court facing an unlimited fine for careless driving.

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