What Do Horsepower And Torque Do For Your Vehicle?

A lot of variables come into play when you’re doing a lot of car comparison-shopping. By now, you’ve probably seen lots of different opinions about engine horsepower and torque. But what do horsepower and torque really do for your vehicle?

Many people know about horsepower and torque. In general, higher numbers mean better performance and speed for your vehicle. But what do horsepower and torque actually mean… and what’s the difference?

Let’s find out…

What Do Horsepower And Torque Do For Your Vehicle?

What Do Horsepower And Torque Do For Your Vehicle

Without getting too technical, torque refers to the measurement of a rotational or twisting force in physics.

But when we’re talking about cars, that means we’re talking about the maximum twisting force created by the engine’s crankshaft.

The higher the number, the more work potential the engine has. It’s actually measured in foot-pounds.

With that being said, the higher your torque, the higher your towing capacity will be.


Horsepower is a measurement of work over time… meaning how fast your engine can do the “twisting” we were talking about earlier.

The Scottish inventory/engineer, James Watt, discovered that one horse could pull a 550-pound load one foot per second… which is why the term “horsepower” was coined.

So, one HP equals 550 foot-pounds of torque per second. To calculate engine horsepower, all you have to do is multiply torque x RPM (revolutions per minute, or how fast the engine is rotating).

Hopefully that explanation didn’t “twist” up your brain too badly…

What Does This Mean For Me And My Vehicle?

Well… since torque is part of how we measure horsepower, both work together to let us know about how well a car performs. Torque is what gets you to a high speed… and horsepower is what keeps you there.

The gear system effects how they both work together. To put this in context for you, think about a race car and a semi truck.

Both have high-performance engines… but they’re used in different ways. A truck needs to produce a lot of torque at low RPMs to tow heavy weight.

It’s not as fast as a race car, but it can do way more work. A race car is very lightweight and aerodynamic. It doesn’t need as much torque to accelerate from a standstill.

… but the engine will hit incredibly high RPMs so that it can get insane horsepower. That’s why they’re so fast… and are able to keep their momentum.

Both numbers are important when you’re shopping for a new (or pre-owned car).

If you’re looking for a heavy-duty vehicle with insane towing capabilities, it’s helpful to look at maximum torque.

This is extremely helpful when you need to tow behind trailers or boats. In which case, you might want to check out our selection of pre-owned pickup trucks to get the best towing performance.

If you’re looking for speed, then horsepower will be more important to you. In which case, you should check out our selection of pre-owned sedans.

But if you really want to find out how well a vehicle performs, then you must take it for a test drive. This is why it’s extremely important that you book your test drive before buying a new vehicle.