How much does a car weigh?
At first this seems like a simple question. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that the average weight of a car in 2018 is 4,094 pounds (read pdf report here).
Unfortunately, that is the combined average for cars, SUVs and pickup trucks. That’s somewhat akin to saying the average NFL football player weighs 250 pounds.
While that may be true, linemen average 300+ pounds, while slot receivers are more like 180 pounds. The average isn’t all that helpful.
Also, when we say “weight,” are we talking about curb weight, gross weight or something else?
If it sounds complex, don’t worry. We break it down for you here.
Why You Should Know Your Car’s Weight
There are several reasons why it is important to know how much your car weighs.
- Safety. Smaller cars are at a serious disadvantage to larger cars and trucks in head on collisions. Every 1,000 pound disadvantage increases risk of a fatality by 47%.
- Fuel Efficiency and Emissions. Larger vehicles get worse miles per gallon and emit more carbon into the atmosphere. Discussed in detail later.
- Tool Selection. If you’re trying to pick the best floor jack or best jack stand, it is important to make sure your tools are sufficiently rated to handle the weight of your vehicle.
- Payload. A subset of weight is “payload,” or how much weight you can carry including cargo and passengers. Exceeding payload can reduce handling, make the car “bottom out” on bumps, and cause excessive wear and damage.
Knowing the weight of cars is important not only when driving or doing routine maintenance, but also when buying a new vehicle.
Different Weight Definitions
The weight of cars is not a normal topic in everyday conversation. As such, it may surprise people that there are many different working definitions of weight.
Here are the most important ones used in the industry:
- Curb Weight is the metric used by manufacturers. It is the weight of a car with all equipment and amenities but no passengers or cargo.
- Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) is the Curb Weight plus passengers and cargo.
- Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the maximum weight a vehicle can safely carry.
- Payload is the amount your car, SUV or truck can carry. Includes drivers, passengers, pets, golf clubs….you name it. If it is in your car, it counts as payload.
From here on out, when we use the term “weight,” we will be referring to “curb weight.”
How Much Does a Car Weigh?
To provide a more helpful answer, we have taken the top 5 selling cars in each segment and calculated the average curb weight. This is expressed as a range from the lightest sub-model to the heaviest sub-model.
For example, a Honda Accord comes in Sport, EX, EX-L and Touring models. The weight range is 3,131 pounds to 3,428 pounds.
Where the segment has less than 5 cars (e.g., smart cars), we simply took the average of all cars in the segment.
Smart cars are those tiny two door cars most often seen in large cities. The company, Smart Cars, is a division of Daimler-Benz in Germany.
They make five different models. Three coupe models (Pure, Passion and Prime) and two Cabrio models (Passion and Prime). All are part of the “fortwo” series.
How much does a Smart Car weigh? According to Car and Driver, the curb weight for the most recent Smart Car models ranges from 2,050 pounds to 2,094 pounds.
That equates to 1.02 and 1.05 tons, or 930 and 950 kilograms.
This is the lightest car in our analysis.
The next lightest car segment is the sub-compact segment.
The weight range is 2,433 pounds to 2,576 pounds (1.2 to 1.3 tons and 1,104 to 1,168 kilograms respectively).
The 5 top selling models and their weight ranges are:
- Nissan Versa (2,395 to 2,494)
- Toyota Yaris (2,315 to 2,335)
- Kia Rio (2,714)
- Hyundai Accent (2,502 to 2,679)
- Honda Fit (2,522 to 2,648).
Not surprisingly, these cars get around 30 miles per gallon (mpg) in city driving and close to 40 mpg on the highway.
Compact cars are big sellers in the car market and can be seen everywhere.
The weight range for compact cars is 2,828 pounds to 3,010 pounds (1.4 to 1.5 tons and 1,283 and 1,365 kilograms respectively).
That is roughly 16% to 17% more than the sub-compact segment.
The top selling compact cars and weights are:
- Toyota Corolla (2,800 to 2,875)
- Honda Civic (2,762 to 3,010)
- Nissan Sentra (2,866 to 3,077)
- Hyundai Elantra (2,822 to 3,131)
- Volkswagen Jetta (2,888 to 2,970).
Fuel efficiency for the compact car segment rivals that of sub-compacts, despite the additional extra pounds. This is one of the few instances where mass doesn’t affect fuel efficiency that much.
The midsize segment boasts some of the bestselling cars of all time, including Camrys and Accords. They are the reliable workhorses of families and businesses everywhere.
Their weights range from a solid 3,212 pounds to 3,509 pounds (1.6 to 1.8 tons and 1,457 and 1,592 kilograms respectively).
That is a 14% to 17% increase over the compact car segment.
The top sellers and corresponding weight ranges are:
- Toyota Camry (3,241 to 3,572)
- Honda Accord (3,131 to 3,428)
- Nissan Altima (3,212 to 3,462)
- Kia Optima (3,230 to 3,558)
- Hyundai Sonata (3,247 to 3,527).
Fuel efficiency is about 5% less in the city, but remains around 40 mpg on the highway.
For large cars, we focused on the mass market as opposed to luxury cars. There is more variation in the weight ranges in this segment.
The low end averaged 3,738 pounds with the upper range ballooning up to 4,027 pounds (1.9 to 2.0 tons and 1,696 and 1,827 kilograms respectively).
This is a 15% to 16% increase over cars in the midsize segment.
- Dodge Charger (3,934 to 4,574)
- Nissan Maxima (3,552 to 3,676)
- Chrysler 300 (4,013 to 4,380)
- Toyota Avalon (3,560 to 3,704)
- Kia Cadenza (3,633 to 3,799).
This is the first segment where we see a noticeable hit to fuel efficiency, with the average being approximately 19-20 city and 30 highway.
Although the public tends to think of SUVs as large gas guzzlers, the sub-compact SUV segment is anything but. In fact, it aligns very closely with compact cars.
The weight range for sub-compact SUVs is from 2,991 pounds to 3,299 pounds (1.5 to 1.65 tons and 1,357 and 1,496 kilograms respectively).
Here are the Top 5 selling sub-compact models and their weights in pounds:
- Subaru Crosstrek (3,113 to 3,239)
- Honda HR-V (2,906 to 3,150)
- Hyundai Kona (2,890 to 3,276)
- Jeep Renegade (3,056 to 3,532)
- Toyota C-HR (3,300).
These models tend to get in the upper 20’s for city driving and low 30’s for highway driving in terms of miles per gallon.
The compact SUV segment has taken off, and the Nissan Rogue is routinely in contention for bestselling SUV each year.
These hot sellers average 3,451 pounds to 3,728 pounds (1.7 to 1.9 tons and 1,565 and 1,691 kilograms respectively).
Below are the stats for the leaders:
- Nissan Rogue (3,454 to 3,660)
- Honda CR-V (3,307 to 3,512)
- Toyota RAV4 (3,455 to 3,630)
- Jeep Cherokee (3,590 to 4,250)
- Subaru Forester (3,449 to 3,588).
Compared to sub-compact SUVs, Compacts are 13% to 15% heavier.
Midsize SUVs are what most people tend to think of when they hear the term “SUV.” The Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner are iconic.
For these mainstays, the weight range is 4,135 pounds to 4,673 pounds (2.1 to 2.3 tons and 1,876 and 2,120 kilograms respectively).
The specifics are:
- Jeep Grand Cherokee (4,513 to 5,363)
- Toyota Highlander (4,134 to 4,508)
- Toyota 4Runner (4,400 to 4,805)
- Honda Pilot (4,036 to 4,319)
- Hyundai Santa Fe (3,591 to 4,372).
Here we see the gap is larger than between other segments. Midsize SUVs are 20% to 25% heavier than their compact counterparts.
Large SUVs are pretty much your classic all purpose family haulers. They are indeed large.
The weight range is 5,468 pounds to a robust 5,738 pounds (2.7 to 2.9 tons and 2,480 and 2,603 kilograms respectively).
Here are the specifics for the Top 5:
- Nissan Armada (5,576 to 5,963)
- Ford Expedition (5,443 to 5,692)
- Chevrolet Tahoe (5,355 to 5,602)
- Chevrolet Suburban (5,586 to 5,808)
- GMC Yukon (5,379 to 5626).
The increase over the midsize segment is whopping 23% to 32% increase.
Half Ton Truck
The answer is of course NOT “one half a ton.” That would be way too easy.
The best selling vehicles in the U.S. are half ton trucks. Their only close rivals in terms of units sold are the midsize car stalwarts like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
Tremendous progress has been made in the truck segment in decreasing weight and improving fuel efficiency. Ford makes aluminum body trucks and most manufacturers offer 8 or 9 speed transmissions.
The average weights are 4,496 pounds to 5,406 pounds (2.2 to 2.7 tons and 2,039 and 2,452 kilograms respectively).
- Ford F150 (4,069 to 5,424)
- Chevrolet Silverado (4,257 to 5,155)
- Ram 1500 (4,798 to 5,372)
- GMC Sierra 1500 (4,257 to 5,400)
- Toyota Tundra (5,100 to 5,680).
Trends Over Time
The EPA Automotive Trends Report (see source at end of article) notes that since 2004 the average weight of a “car” (includes SUVs and trucks) has been steady at a little over 4,000 pounds. 4,094 in 2018 to be exact.
Although the average has remained the same, the components have not. Materials have gotten lighter with heavy use of plastics and aluminum.
However, those savings has been offset by the mix shifting toward SUVs and trucks and away from cars.
In 1975, trucks and SUVs had roughly a 20% market share of total vehicles sold. Today that share is approaching 50% of all vehicles sold.
From 1975 to today, here is how the various segments have changed in terms of average car weight. Note: their category definitions are somewhat different than the more general classifications we used above.
- Sedan & wagon -13%
- Car SUV -6%
- Truck SUV +5%
- Minivan & van +7%
- Pickup +29%
- All segments +1%.
Impact of Weight on Fuel Efficiency
According to the EPA, for every 100 pounds removed from a vehicle, fuel efficiency (miles per gallon) increases 1-2%.
What does that mean in real world terms? At a 2% improvement, if your car averages 20 miles per gallon, gas is $3 per gallon, and you drive 20,000 miles per year, you would save around $60 annually for very 100 pounds.
That definitely adds up over time. Check your back seat and trunk for any unnecessary weight. Golf clubs, tool kits, school supplies….whatever. Most people have more junk in their cars than they expect.
Reducing weight by a few hundred pounds is usually not that difficult.
How much does a car weigh? Hopefully, you are much better prepared to answer that question now. It is surprisingly nuanced.
Knowing the weight of your car is important for driving reasons, safety reasons, fuel efficiency reasons and maintenance reasons (e.g., selecting the proper tools).
It is also important as a purchase factor when selecting new cars. Is safety in a head on collision more important to you than fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness?
That is not an easy question to answer. It is crucial to be informed so you can make the best decision for you and your family based on where and how you drive.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How can I find the weight of my car?
There are a few different ways:
- Consult the owner’s manual.
- Look up your exact vehicle (make, model and year) on the manufacturer’s website.
- Check for a sticker on the driver’s side door. This will likely provide the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) which is the maximum weight, inclusive of everything, for safe operation. Some provide curb weight as well.
- Weigh your car. If you need an exact weight, truck stops and retail scrap yards have scales that will do the job.
Please note that 1 and 2 above will provide “curb weight,” while 3 will provide Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), and 4 will give you Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). Just be sure what you are looking at.
How much does a Smart Car weigh?
As we noted above, the answer is just over two thousand pounds, or one ton. However, that is for the most recent models.
The Smart Car has been around since the early 1990’s. Some of the early models weighed as little as 1,610 pounds or 730 kilograms.
What is the weight of my car in tons or kilograms?
A ton is simply 2,000 pounds or 907.19 kilograms. Some car tools are rated in terms of tons, such as bottle jacks or floor jacks. A 3-ton jack has the capacity to handle a 6,000 pound vehicle.
One pound is equal to 0.453592 kilograms. 1 kilogram is equal to 2.20462 pounds. Simply Google “pounds to kilograms,” and a helpful conversion calculator will pop up. This is a helpful metric to know when determining the weight of cars. Tool instructions, safety guidelines, policies, etc., all use pounds, tons and kilograms variously in their materials.
Why is the average weight of car not helpful?
It depends on what you want to know. The EPA provides the average weight of a car in the U.S. That may be helpful to economists and public policy planners in thinking about overall fuel efficiency.
For most drivers, when they ask “how much does a car weigh,” they need to know for their vehicle sub-segment. This is much more useful to everyday drivers. It tells them how risky collisions are, what kind of tools they need (e.g., jack stand weight ratings), and a whole host of other interesting information. This is why we have broken down the data in this article by bestseller x sub-segment. In our opinion, this provides the MOST useful knowledge to the MOST people.
- EPA 2018 Automotive Trends Report (note: link is a large pdf file)
- Pounds that Kill: The External Costs of Vehicle Weight
- Car sales data was taken from goodcarbadcar.net
- How does Weight Affect Fuel Efficiency (Autoblog)