Having certain size wheels on a vehicle can both improve and hinder performance levels, one of those levels being fuel economy. Wheel size is huge when it comes to gas mileage, different wheel sizes affecting the weight of the car and the rolling resistance. For more details, see our CARite research below as to how wheel size affects fuel economy.
Wheel Size and Fuel Economy
Larger wheel sizes, though they add a certain aesthetic appeal, are not generally helpful in increasing or maintaining efficient fuel economies. The larger wheel sizes increase the weight of the vehicle overall, taking more fuel to power it than it would with smaller tires. Having larger wheels also means there is a wider width which in turn creates an increased rolling resistance. As the rolling resistance increases, the engine has to work harder and use more fuel to move the tire.
Below you can see a chart of how wheel size affects the fuel economy of the Volkswagen Golf 2.5.
Wheel Size 19 x 8.5 in 18 x 8.0 in 17 x 8.0 in 16 x 7.5 in 15 x 6.0 in Fuel Economy 21.1 mpg 21.9 mpg 22.8 mpg 22.9 mpg 22.9 mpg
As you can see from the chart, while there is a difference between the fuel economies of the 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 inch wheels, the difference is marginal. So if you want those 19-inch wheels for a bold road style, go for it. Keep in mind however, that wheel size also affects the speedometer reading of a vehicle. Using the same example with the VW Golf, moving between the 15 inch and 19 inch wheels there is a speedometer error of up to three miles per hour.