What’s the Difference Between Horsepower and Torque?

Difference Between Horsepower and Torque
Photo by ArtisticOperations

Horsepower and torque are the two most common measures of engine performance in the United States.


They can describe the performance of cars, trucks, and other machinery with internal combustion engines. 

But what do these measurements mean? What is the difference between horsepower and torque? The answers may surprise you! Let’s look at horsepower and torque and how they’re used.

Also, how you can use them to your advantage when you buy or sell a car or truck.

What is Horsepower?

A horsepower is a unit of measurement that calculates an engine’s power output. The term was originally coined by James Watt, a Scottish inventor, in the late 18th century. 

One horsepower equals 33,000 foot-pounds of work per minute or about 746 watts. To put that into perspective, a human can generate about one-tenth of one horsepower with sustained physical activity. 

To calculate horsepower, you need to know an engine’s torque output and RPMs.  RPMs are a measure of how fast the engine is spinning.

What is Torque?

When it comes to understanding how a car works, there are a lot of different factors to consider. Two terms that are often used interchangeably are horsepower and torque. But what exactly is torque? 

Torque is the force on an object caused by its rotational motion around a pivot point. Torque can be measured in Newton-meters (Nm) or pounds-feet (lb-ft). A higher torque usually means the engine will produce more power, but not always. 

It also typically requires less fuel than engines with lower torque levels. A low-torque engine will be much easier to start than one with high torque.

This is because it takes less effort for the starter motor. It can also mean better fuel economy for cars with lower torque levels.

Difference Between Horsepower and Torque

Horsepower measures how much work your engine can do in a given time. The more horsepower an engine has, the faster it can do work.

Torque, on the other hand, is a measure of how much force an engine can generate. The higher the torque, the more force the engine can apply.

Here is the Difference Between Horsepower and Torque

  • Horsepower is measured by the number of revolutions per minute (RPM) or brake horsepower (bhp) that an engine can produce. On the other hand, Torque is measured by Newton meters (Nm). 
  • Horsepower affects how fast something goes. Higher horsepower means that something goes faster. Torque affects acceleration: with higher torque, you need less rev up to get going. But more need to keep accelerating after you’re going because friction slows you down. 
  • If you want to move quickly, go for high HP. If you want to move slow but smoothly, go for high torque. Torque is not good at getting things moving from a stop, which is why trucks often have two engines: one for when they start from rest and one to take over when they are moving at cruising speed. That way, the truck doesn’t need too much torque to get moving but still needs enough torque to make it through rough terrain without losing speed.
  • Another difference between horsepower and torque is that torque is important when driving up hills or steep inclines. This is because engines cannot supply as much power as needed at low RPMs. So gearing must be changed accordingly if there isn’t enough horsepower available to compensate. When picking out a car, consider what type of driving you will be doing most. If most of your driving involves regular speeds, horsepower may be what you need. If most of your driving will involve climbing large hills, then torque might better suit your needs. 
  • It is also worth noting when considering the difference between horsepower and torque that horsepower does not mean speed, either. If a car company claims their vehicle has 300 hp, this does not necessarily mean it accelerates faster than another vehicle with only 250 hp. It just means the engine produces 300 bhp. Torque would be more indicative of how well a vehicle gets off the line regarding 0-60 times and quarter-mile drag races.


In Conclusion, it’s worth knowing the difference between horsepower and torque.  The higher the torque rating of an engine, the more force it can apply to the wheels and the faster it can accelerate. Horsepower is often listed as a key spec when shopping for a new car.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like