Engine Size: Is Bigger Always Better?


Mar 16th, 2021

Engine Size: Is Bigger Always Better?

Of all the many items on a list of car specifications, the engine size continues to be one that many people still misunderstand. Sure, no matter what type of car engine you’re talking about, it always sounds cool when people talk about big engines with more cylinders.

But does a car with a bigger engine displacement actually live up to the hype? That’s what we’re here to find out.

How Do I Find Out the Size of a Car's Engine?

While it’s commonly referred to as the engine size, the proper technical term for how big an engine might be is the ‘engine displacement’. Sure, you could refer to the car manual or Google your car model to find out how big the engine is, but the truth is that there are other ways to go about doing it.

Do the Math

If you prefer working with numbers and technical details yourself, you can calculate the engine displacement on your own. There's a lot of math and complex calculations involved that we won't get into here, but you can check out this article instead for a step-by-step guide on how to do that!

To sum it up, though, those calculations of the engine displacement will take into account the physical size of the engine, as well as the number of cylinders and other parts inside.

Check the Paperwork

Another way to figure out your engine size is to check the car’s paperwork aside from the user manual. You can check the car’s registration and tax documentation, for instance.

Typically, cars are taxed based on their engine displacement, so that information will be printed out on those papers very clearly.

Depending on how old your car is, you might still have the original receipts intact. If you do, then those papers will also tell you how big the engine is.

Check the Back

Last but not least, you can just walk to the back of your car and check the badges on the boot. Besides the manufacturer’s logo and perhaps the car model badge, most cars still have the engine displacement badge there as well.

Don’t be surprised if your car doesn’t have a badge displaying the engine displacement, however. Manufacturers are gradually moving away from displaying their engine sizes directly on the car’s boot in this day and age.

That’s largely because of how the industry is moving towards electric or hybrid vehicles, where a bigger engine size doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more powerful.

Are Bigger Engines More Reliable? 

Not necessarily. You see, big engines come with a long list of benefits. A larger engine displacement means that more air and fuel can be burned at one time, and as a result, the engine will produce much more power than a smaller engine. That also allows for better acceleration and a better ability to tow heavier loads.

However, reliability is not about engine size or power. Remember: a reliable engine is one that performs well consistently without breaking down very often. That ability depends on the engine parts and how well they’ve been put together.

So, when talking about engine reliability, it’s not really the size that matters. What matters is the workmanship and quality control that the manufacturer puts into the engine. And as we all know, not all manufacturers are the same when it comes to the quality of engines they build.

Pros and Cons of Bigger Engines

Bigger engines produce more power, sure, but they also come with a couple of important drawbacks. For one, they’re not as fuel-efficient as smaller engines. Having a larger displacement means that the engine takes in more fuel and air at one time, and it is heavier overall.

A heavier engine means a heavier car, which requires much more power to move and therefore burns more fuel.

How Do I Choose the Best Engine Size for My Needs? 

Choosing the best engine size for your needs will require a bit of thinking on your part. Remember: bigger does not necessarily mean better (for most people, at least). Here are the things you’ll want to take into consideration when choosing the engine size for your next car:

  • Insurance and tax costs
  • Your typical commute and driving conditions
  • Your priorities

Insurance and Tax Costs

First and foremost, you must factor in the costs of car insurance and any applicable taxes. Arguably more important than any other thing on this list is to figure out what engine sizes you can afford to pay for.

Generally, the bigger your engine displacement, the more you’ll be paying when it comes to insurance and taxes.

To figure out how much insurance and tax will cost for the engine sizes you’re considering, be sure to ask the car seller and double-check with your local transport authority. Remember: Australian states and territories tend to differ slightly when it comes to rules and regulations about cars, so be sure to search for information related to your location.

Your Typical Commute & Driving Conditions

Next, you’ll need to think about where you’ll be driving most of the time. For example, if most of your driving happens in urban areas or city streets, you can rest assured that you won’t need such a big engine.

The opposite is true if most of your driving will happen off-road or in challenging environments, or if you’re planning on driving fast. Those are the kinds of driving conditions where selecting bigger engines will make more sense.

Your Priorities

Lastly, you’ll want to consider what your priorities are when it comes to that car you’re buying. Are you using it as your daily driver to work and drop the kids off at school? Well, big engines won’t make much sense in those situations. Instead, a city car with a smaller engine displacement would be more suitable and economical for such conditions.

However, if you're driving a ute or pickup truck for work, with plans on carrying cargo in the back or towing heavy loads, then bigger is definitely better. You'll need the added power output that only big engines can provide so that you can move all that weight around effectively.

Learn More from CarPartAU!

To learn more about topics like engine displacement and more, check out the blog at Carpart.com.au. It’s where you’ll find daily updates that’ll teach you everything you need to know about cars and auto parts. Need parts? You’re in the right place too! Simply fill out the parts request form on our home page, and we’ll do the searching for you! Try it now!

By Ray Hasbollah