How Many Miles Can You Drive When the Fuel Light Comes On?

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 2 months ago

5 min read

  • Car ownership

WhoCanFixMyCar discusses which cars give you the most miles after your fuel light comes on.

Most of us have probably driven with the fuel light on before, but few have an accurate idea of how many miles we can travel before the engine cuts out. A good rule of thumb is that, in most cars, you have roughly 50 miles left when the light comes on.

With this in mind, let's compare the fuel reserves of different models. The estimated distances in this guide are based on an analysis conducted by CompareTheMarket.


Fuel reserve by model

What happens when a car runs out of petrol?

How far can you drive on zero miles to empty?

Fuel reserve by model

Which car model gives you the most miles after the low fuel light comes on?

As you can see from the table above, the model with the biggest fuel reserve is the mighty Toyota Prius. Since the Prius is a hybrid, you'll already get more miles from a tank, and the sizeable fuel reserve is the cherry on top.

A red Toyota Prius.

Which car model gives you the least miles after the low fuel light comes on?

At the bottom of the list are the Suzuki Alto and the Kia Picanto, both with around 31 miles in the reserve tank.

A yellow Kia Picanto

What happens when a car runs out of petrol?

Running out of fuel is bad news - and not just because it could leave you stuck by the side of the road.

Especially in older cars, damage happens even before you drain the last drop of fuel. This is because the bottom of the tank might contain sediment that could block the fuel filter, stopping or reducing the fuel flow.

When the tank is empty, your fuel pump starts drawing in air, and without fuel to cool it, it may overheat. Although this won't cause serious damage if it happens once, running out of fuel multiple times could damage the pump.

Fuel pumps at petrol station.

The situation is worse for diesel cars because diesel is used as fuel and a lubricant - without it, the fuel pump and injectors can quickly become damaged. Another thing to consider is that, unlike in petrol cars, air is not supposed to mix with fuel at this stage - if it enters the system, you may have to bleed it, which is expensive and time-consuming.

For all these reasons, it's best to avoid running out of fuel if you can. When you see the low fuel light - or ideally before it comes on - find the nearest petrol station and fill up.

How far can you drive on 0 miles to empty?

The answer to this question will vary depending on several factors, such as your driving style, weather conditions, and the make and model of your car.

Most modern cars don’t have a separate reserve tank, but they will probably give you a few more miles after the dial hits zero. YouTuber AutoVlog put his 4V Ford Fusion to the test in 2017, managing 21.6 miles after the fuel gauge first reached zero. You can watch the video here.

That said, driving with extremely low fuel can damage your engine, so it’s best to fill up as soon as possible.

Having trouble with your car? Whether you're looking for servicing or repairs, WhoCanFixMyCar can help you find the right garage at the right price.

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Written by Ellie

Ellie Author Pic

Ellie is WhoCanFixMyCar’s Content Writer. She has a BA in English literature from Durham University, a master’s degree in creative writing, and three years of experience writing in the automotive industry. She currently drives a Suzuki Swift.

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