How Far Can You Drive Your Vehicle on Empty?

Every driver occasionally lets their gas tank get low enough to trigger the low fuel warning light. Even though we all know it's best to keep your gas tank ¼ full, we still let it run low from time to time. Knowing how far you can drive on an empty gas tank will help keep you from getting stuck on the side of the road.

Before letting your car run on empty again, it’s worth knowing just how many – or how few – miles you can actually drive after the light comes on. It’s also smart to know what else is at stake when you let your gas tank run to near depletion.

Part 1 of 3: Is it dangerous to drive with the low fuel warning light illuminated?

The primary concern when driving on empty is the possibility of running out of gas and getting stuck on the road, which is not only a hassle, but also a potentially dangerous situation. You may break down on the freeway, where the surrounding cars are traveling upwards of 70 MPH, or you may break down on a blind turn on the highway, where a vehicle could rear end you. Or you could run out of fuel in the middle of a desert, like what surrounds Tucson, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada, or on a frigid snowy road outside Chicago, Illinois, or Cleveland, Ohio.

That said, driving on empty can also do damage to your vehicle. If you do run out of gas, you can do damage to your catalytic converter, which may then need to be repaired or replaced as a result. Even the simple act of driving with a low amount of fuel in your tank can damage your fuel pump, as any debris or contamination in the gas (which naturally settles at the bottom of the tank), will be sent through your fuel pump when the tank is nearly empty. You’re not going to ruin your car the first time you drive it with the low fuel warning light on, but it’s a harmful practice to do regularly.

Part 2 of 3: How trustworthy is the distance to empty gauge?

Most modern vehicles have a distance to empty gauge on their instrument cluster, which provides an approximation of how many miles can be driven before the car runs out of gas. Many people prefer to use this feature in lieu of the low fuel warning light, figuring that if the gauge says there are 20 miles left, then they have 20 miles before they run out of gas.

However, this is a dangerous practice, as the distance to empty gauge only offers a rough approximation. This approximation is based on the average mileage that you have attained while driving your vehicle, which means that it may not be very accurate relative to your current driving conditions.

For instance, if most of your driving is done on the highway, then your distance to empty meter is probably not very accurate when you’re stuck in traffic. So while the gauge provides a fairly accurate approximation when your tank is relatively full, it shouldn’t be used to figure out your exact number of miles remaining in the tank when you’re running on empty.

Part 3 of 3: How far can you drive on empty?

Exactly how far you can drive on empty depends on your vehicle, your driving habits, and road conditions. However, you may be surprised to see how few miles you actually can drive once the low fuel warning light comes on.

Here is the range for how many miles you can drive – as well as the point at which the warning light illuminates – for the top 50 best-selling vehicles in the United States in 2015.

  • Note: For vehicles with “Not available” listed for the point at which the warning light comes on, the light is triggered based on the distance to empty calculator having the listed number of miles remaining.

How Far Can You Drive Your Vehicle on Empty?
Make Model Fuel remaining when low fuel warning light is triggered Miles remaining when low fuel warning light is illuminated
Ford F-150 1/16th of a tank 35-80
Chevrolet Silverado Not available 25
Ram 1500 3 gallons 63-87
Toyota Camry 2.6 gallons 65-91
Toyota Corolla 2 gallons 60-84
Nissan Altima 3 gallons 81-114
Honda Accord 2.6 gallons 70-93
Honda CR-V 2.3 gallons 62-78
Honda Civic 1.9 gallons 59-80
Ford Fusion 1/16th of a tank 35-80
Ford Escape 1/16th of a tank 35-80
Toyota RAV4 2.4 gallons 57-74
Chevrolet Equinox Not available 50
Nissan Rogue 3 gallons 78-99
Hyundai Elantra Not available 30
Ford Explorer 1/16th of a tank 35-80
Chevrolet Cruze 2 gallons 56-84
Ford Focus 1/16th of a tank 35-80
GMC Sierra Denali 4 gallons 64-92
Hyundai Sonata Not available 40
Jeep Cherokee 3 gallons 66-93
Nissan Sentra 2 gallons 60-80
Jeep Wrangler 2.8 gallons 47-58
Chrysler 200 3 gallons 69-108
Chevrolet Malibu 2 gallons 50-72
Jeep Grand Cherokee 3 gallons 66-90
Toyota Tacoma 3 gallons 63-75
Subaru Forester 2.6 gallons 62-83
Kia Optima Not available 30
Toyota Highlander 2.9 gallons 58-72
Kia Soul Not available 30
Toyota Sienna 3 gallons 54-75
Subaru Outback 2.6 gallons 65-85
Nissan Versa 2.6 gallons 65-85
Volkswagen Jetta 1.85 gallons 57-85
Honda Odyssey 3 gallons 57-84
Honda Pilot 2.5 gallons 45-62
Ford Mustang 1/16th of a tank 35-80
Ford Edge 1/16th of a tank 35-80
Chevrolet Traverse 2.5 gallons 42-60
Toyota Tundra 4 gallons 60-72
Jeep Patriot 2 gallons 46-60
Toyota Prius 1.6 gallons 76-81
Hyundai Santa Fe Not available 40
Kia Sorento Not available 40
Chevrolet Impala 2 gallons 44-62
Ford Transit 1/16th of a tank 35-80
Mazda 3 2.3 gallons 69-94
Mazda CX-5 2.6 gallons 67-91
GMC Terrain Not available 50

Driving on empty is sometimes a necessity, and when you find yourself in that situation, it is important for you to know exactly how many miles of range you have left. Figuring this out beforehand is a good way to be prepared when the tank gets really low, and to avoid a breakdown. If you notice that you are reaching empty unusually quickly or have leaking fuel, be sure to have an inspection performed as soon as possible.


Next Step

Schedule Check Fuel System

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Check Fuel System. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Check Fuel System reviews

Excellent Rating

(10)

Rating Summary
9
0
0
0
1
9
0
0
0
1

Christian

22 years of experience
68 reviews
Christian
22 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz 420SEL - Check Fuel System - Hayward, California
Very professional and very knowledgeable!look forward for him working on my car in the future

Joe

15 years of experience
437 reviews
Joe
15 years of experience
Toyota Pickup - Check Fuel System - Brentwood, Tennessee
I was very impressed with Joe. I would recommend Joe to all my friends.

Chris

15 years of experience
312 reviews
Chris
15 years of experience
Land Rover Range Rover - Check Fuel System - Poway, California
Chris was able to solve my problem and seem very knowledgeable of how to repair my car.

Ruben

17 years of experience
113 reviews
Ruben
17 years of experience
Chevrolet Cobalt - Check Fuel System - Kannapolis, North Carolina
Ruben was on time and completely professional and caring. Ruben made sure I understood everything that was going on with my car... Going as far as taking pictures of underneath the car to show and explain to me what was happening and why. Although I know NOTHING about cars, Ruben explained what was happening in lay terms to the point that even I actually understood what was going on! Trust me, that takes a lot! I would recommend Your Mechanic to everyone and specifically ask for Ruben Marin. I will never use anyone else from now on.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

How Long Does an Intake Manifold Runner Control Last?
Having Having the right air and fuel mixture in a car’s engine is the only way for it to run at peak performance. Older vehicles really had no way to control the flow of air that came into their engine....
Does Gasoline Expire?
Gasoline Gasoline does expire if it is left unused for a long period of time. The problem with gas is its volatility. A volatile substance is prone to separating and vaporizing. This is especially bad if the fuel vapor has...
5 Essential Things to Know About Hybrids
The The growing popularity of hybrid vehicles has led many to start wondering whether it might not be time to make the switch. Here you’ll find out five essential things you need to know to help you make your decision...

Related questions

Car doesn't start but cranks

You mention "adding" gas to the tank. If the tank was run dry, the fuel pump could have been damaged and, in that scenario, yes the pump should be tested to see if that is the problem. If, by chance,...

What is going on with my car?

Hi there. Check the fuel injectors and see if they are working or not. If the fuel injectors are not working, then you would need to replace the fuel injectors. If the fuel injectors are fine and the engine operates...

car running very rough, making oil 1990 Nissan/Datsun 300ZX

Hello - I suspect your cold start system has gone "full on" or you have leaking injectors. Without question your fuel system is pumping way too much fuel into the intake, leaking past the piston rings, and entering the crankcase....

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com