What is a Gas Guzzler?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A gas guzzler is a car which has very low fuel economy, resulting in high gasoline consumption. Since some people are beginning to grow concerned about the long term viability of oil supplies, gas guzzlers are an issue which is frequently discussed. Because gas guzzlers consume more fuel, they can potentially produce more emissions as well, which is undesirable, especially in many Western nations which have enacted emissions standards for environmental reasons.

SUVs often have low fuel efficiency.
SUVs often have low fuel efficiency.

Generally, a gas guzzler is inefficient with fuel simply because it is very heavy. A heavier vehicle requires more fuel to run, as does a vehicle which is designed for high performance, like a sports car. Some gas guzzlers also have less than ideal fuel efficiency because their overall design is not very aerodynamic. Cars with strange protrusions or awkward body structures will generate more drag, causing a demand for more power to keep the car going.

Gas guzzlers typcially produce more emissions than fuel efficient cars.
Gas guzzlers typcially produce more emissions than fuel efficient cars.

Some of the more well known examples of gas guzzlers are trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs). Many older models of cars also consume a great deal of fuel, because they are heavy and they have bodies which are lacking in aerodynamic features. Sports cars can eat up a lot of fuel as well, since their engines are designed to produce a great deal of raw power. A muscle car can also be quite a gas guzzler, combining demands for high performance with a very heavy body.

In some countries, national governments have taken steps to encourage car manufacturers to produce cars with better fuel economy. Consumers are also encouraged through incentive programs which offer discounts, or penal programs like a gas guzzler tax which drives the cost of cars with low efficiency up. Many auto manufacturers have also engaged in experimental programs which play with other sources of energy, with the eventual goal of removing petroleum products from the process altogether.

There are some legitimate reasons to drive a gas guzzler. Farmers, for example, need heavy duty trucks for various farm chores and equipment handling. People who do a lot of heavy hauling, such as contractors, also require large, heavy vehicles. However, many gas guzzlers are designed for a different market; SUVs, for example, are meant to appeal to young urban professionals, who probably do not have an overwhelming need for these large, heavy, and sometimes dangerous vehicles. Some people who support fuel economy hope to change the social status of small, efficient cars to turn them into stylish, sought after items.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I think it's not so difficult to identify the cars which are the biggest or worst gas guzzlers. The thing that many people may overlook is that most of us ordinary folk, who don't drive the flash sports models, could also be getting more miles for our bucks.

If car pooling or public transportation isn't realistic we rely on our personal car to get around. This is my situation, and I definitely feel less guilty now I do a few things to reduce my fuel consumption.

These days I drive slower. So long as it's reasonbable to do so I try to stick to 55 mph, using 25% less gas right there. Many days I also turn off the air conditioning, especially when on the freeway.

More savings can be made by clearing out all the junk and unnecessary things from your car. I've been known to drive around with a full trunk because I never got round to emptying the thing. Don't let your car become a mobile storage unit!


@Acracadabra - I'm not sure if much has changed, but the gas guzzler tax in 2011 has let the Ford Mustang Shelby squeeze through, and that rates around 15/23 mpg for the city and the highway respectively.

I know that the designers also made it a little shorter and the engine is lighter, but it still doesn't seem like much of a return for your money. Even if gas prices dropped dramatically I would feel the same.

Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful car and a definite status symbol if you like that sort of thing. Personally though I would feel bad about driving something that is burning up resources at such speed.


I was very happy to see the gas guzzler tax start in 2010. If you look at a fuel cost calculator program online it's horrifying to see that some cars only average around 13 mpg around the city!

It will be interesting to keep tracking this topic and see if the hefty surcharges really make that much of an impact.

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