What is a turbocharged engine?

A turbocharger gives an engine extra power without sacrificing fuel efficiency. It is typically added to smaller engines to improve performance. Today you can find turbocharged engines on many vehicles, including sports cars, trucks, sedans, and luxury vehicles.

3 min to read

What does a turbo do?

A turbo compresses exhaust gas as it exits and sends it back into the engine. The increased airflow sends more fuel into the engine, giving it more power.

Turbocharged engines pros and cons

Using a turbo to get the extra power you need from a smaller engine may seem like a simple way to avoid the downsides of a larger engine. Here are some pros and cons of adding a turbocharger to your vehicle.

Pros of a turbocharged engine

  • Performance: When you need a boost to merge into oncoming traffic, the extra power the turbo gives your engine can improve its performance on the road.
  • Fuel efficiency: Because turbochargers give your car extra power without increasing the size of the engine, they're typically more fuel-efficient than larger engines.
  • Sound: Turbos muffle engine sounds, making cars with turbo engines quieter to drive.

Cons of a turbocharged engine

  • Delay: Turbos need a little time to prepare, so it may take a few seconds from when you hit the accelerator until the turbo boost kicks in.
  • Affordability: Cars with turbocharged engines are typically more expensive than vehicles with standard engines because may need to use premium gas in your car.
  • Reliability: Turbocharged engines may not be as reliable as standard engines. Engines with more parts have more that can go wrong.
  • Maintenance: Because turbochargers stress the engine and its parts, turbocharged engines often require more routine maintenance.
  • Towing capability: Turbochargers aren't a good option if you plan to haul heavy loads. You typically need a larger engine, not a turbo-boosted smaller engine.

How to get a car with a turbo engine

Many vehicles come standard with turbocharged engines, so if you're in the market for a new car, finding one with a turbo should be relatively easy. If you want to add a turbo to your current vehicle, you may be able to purchase a kit, which should have all the parts you need to turbocharge your engine.

However, that may not be your best option. Before turbocharging your car, consider whether the engine and the rest of your vehicle can handle the extra power. You may need to upgrade components such as the clutch, pistons, and valves before can turbocharge your engine to avoid damaging your vehicle. If you don't know your way around cars or are unsure how turbocharging your engine will affect it, it's a good idea to talk with a qualified mechanic.

Will having a turbocharged engine affect my insurance?

Cars with turbocharged engines often cost more to insure because they cost more to repair than their non-turbocharged counterparts. They also have more power and speed than a standard engine, increasing the risk of an accident. Your car insurance premium may reflect the increased risk for the insurance company. Check with your insurance company to get specifics and learn more about car insurance cost factors.

If you buy a vehicle with a turbocharged engine, the insurance company will find out when they run the vehicle identification number (VIN) to add it to your policy, and the insurer will quote your premium accordingly. However, if you add a turbocharger to your engine after purchasing a car, it's important to let the insurance company know. You'll likely need an endorsement or custom car insurance policy to cover the modifications. The insurer may deny your claim if you don't tell the insurance company about the changes and your car is damaged or stolen. Learn more about insurance for modified cars.

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