Why you need to know about car engine sizes

About to buy a car? You should know the impact of engine size on fuel economy and performance. We’re here to help.

Man working on car engine

You like how the car looks, it’s got all the gimmicks, and it’s within your budget.

But one thing could end up costing you. And it’s something we often ignore because it’s too confusing to consider: the size of the engine. 

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Car engine size explained

Most petrol engines have cylinders which work together to get the car moving.

Without getting too technical, the size of an engine refers to the total volume of air and fuel being pushed through the engine by the cylinders.

It’s measured in cubic centimetres (cc).

For example, a 1,000cc engine can displace one litre (1,000 cubic centimetres) of this air-fuel mixture. It would be labelled a 1.0-litre engine. 


What does engine displacement mean?

A high-displacement engine draws in more of the air and fuel mixture. If it can displace more of this mixture, it can create more power. And if it displaces less, then it’s not so powerful.

Which is just a long way of saying: the bigger the engine, the more powerful the car.

But wait, there’s more.

Some cars come with turbocharged engines. They increase the car’s efficiency and power, giving them similar oomph to larger, non-turbo engines.


Will car engine size cost me?

Cars with larger engines will usually eat up more fuel than smaller ones.

Which is worth keeping in mind if miles per gallon (mpg) is important to you.

And because acceleration and speed are typically better with bigger engines, your insurance can also go up.

The added power your car holds could mean it’s a ‘greater’ risk in the eye of an insurer.

What engine size is right for me?

It all boils down to your needs and lifestyle.

If you’re a regular motorway commuter, for example, something more powerful or turbocharged may suit you better.

But if you do a lot of driving around town, a car with a smaller engine might be preferable as they tend to be more efficient for smaller journeys.

That said, the engine size shouldn’t be the main factor you base your choice on. It’s just one of the many things that come into play.

Things to think about when buying a car:

  • Fuel efficiency
  • Safety
  • Driving comfort
  • Cost of insurance
  • Design
  • Space
  • Vehicle history 
  • Prices and financing

How do I find out my car’s engine size?

So, you’ve got this far, but you’re not interested in buying a new car. Maybe you’re just curious to know what your car’s engine size is.

Or you’re looking to sell and think it would be useful to advertise your car’s engine size to potential buyers.

Either way, you can find out through the DVLA website, where you can also check when your tax and MOT are due. Visit GOV.UK and enter your car registration – simple!

The relevant information will be next to cylinder capacity. So, remember, 1,500cc would be a 1.5-litre engine.