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What Is the Difference Between a Turbocharger and a Supercharger?

Posted by Scott Goldfarb on

Turbochargers and superchargers are both used to increase the power of car engines. They force more air into the combustion chamber, creating an environment for better fuel burning. But what is the difference between a turbocharger and a supercharger? 

Turbochargers and superchargers are often referred to synonymously, even though they have different methods of forced induction. They have distinct characteristics that make them suitable for different applications and engine types.

So, the article will discuss turbocharger versus supercharger and what sets them apart.

Difference Between a Turbocharger and a Supercharger

Source: shutterstock.com/ Photo Contributor: Maxx-Studio

What Is the Difference Between a Turbocharger and a Supercharger?

The fundamental thing that sets turbochargers and superchargers apart is how they are powered. 

The turbochargers have a turbine through which the exhaust gases flow and make it spin to power up the compressor. In contrast, superchargers are powered directly by the engine through a belt or a chain that drives its compressor.

Another important difference is in their respective usage. Turbochargers are popular for high-performance vehicles and economy-focused engines, and you'll find a wide turbos selection in our store if you own that type of vehicle.

On the other hand, superchargers are more prevalent among heavy-duty trucks because they supply immediate low-end power.

Here are the general characteristics of each of them:


  • Utilize exhaust gases to power its mechanism
  • Improves engine power and torque output 
  • Enhances fuel efficiency by improving the air-fuel mixture density
  • More efficient at high altitudes where the air is thinner
  • Found in high-performance and economy vehicles
  • Can reduce emissions by improving the combustion process


  • Driven by the engine’s crankshaft
  • Provide immediate boost at all engine speeds
  • Suited for low-end power requirements
  • Consumes engine power to operate
  • Suitable for heavy-duty trucks and situations that require quick acceleration

Turbocharger vs Supercharger

Choosing between a turbocharger and a supercharger isn’t that difficult. You need to know the car’s performance specifications and consider some factors like available room and existing engine components. This will ensure that the induction system of your choice is the right one for your vehicle.

Here’s what you need to consider:

Performance goals

Having the performance goals in mind is vital to choosing the best-forced induction device for your engine. 

If higher horsepower is what you’re after, then a turbocharger would be the automatic choice. A turbo’s efficiency at higher engine speeds is unmatched as it would supply the combustion with the needed oxygen to provide a boost. 

If you are looking to increase immediate low-end power and enhance acceleration, then a supercharger might be more suitable. The supercharger’s instant power delivery and consistent performance make it a better option for some drivers.

Engine size and design

Certain engines are better suited for forced induction than others. This is because of their interior design and the size of the engine displacement relative to that of the forced induction device. 

A smaller engine would benefit more from a turbocharger because of how it would boost its power without needing bigger displacement.

Engines with a larger displacement would require more low-end torque, which means they would be more suited to a supercharger.


Turbochargers are more efficient in terms of efficiency due to their utilization of waste gases to power their work. That improves the fuel economy and the overall efficiency of the combustion process. 

Superchargers use the engine’s energy and may even lead to extra fuel being spent to facilitate their work.

By having efficient combustion, turbochargers reduce the engine’s emissions. This is especially the case in higher RPM; turbochargers are better if you care about the environment.

Turbocharger vs Supercharger

Source: shutterstock.com/ Photo Contributor: Maxx-Studio

Power vs Torque

In many ways, the debate for turbochargers vs. superchargers is actually a statement of choice. 

Drivers align their choice with the experience they seek from their ride, choosing between the supercharger's immediate surge of power and the turbo's high-end performance-enhancing capacity.

How do turbos create extra power?

Once the energy from the engine moves the car's wheels, the exhaust gases appear as a byproduct of the process. The ingenious thing about turbochargers is that they can create additional energy for the car from what is normally discarded as waste.

A turbo takes the exhaust gases through its turbine and uses their high heat as energy to make the turbine rotate. As a result, the compressor, positioned at the other end, also rotates, allowing more air to fit into the engine’s combustion chamber. More air means a higher oxygen content for combustion, allowing more fuel to be burned.

This is, in a nutshell, how turbochargers create extra power. They are best utilized for producing high-end power, i.e., delivering extra horsepower and torque at higher RPMs.

How do superchargers create extra torque?

Superchargers also work towards compressing air and forcing it into the engine’s combustion chamber. 

However, instead of utilizing the engine's exhaust gases for power, they are moved directly by the engine’s crankshaft. Since the crankshaft mechanically moves them, they immediately increase air pressure across all engine speeds.

This feature is particularly beneficial in vehicles that require help with low RPMs. These are cars that need quick bursts of power to overcome certain challenges like driving off-road or performing heavy-duty tasks. 

Superchargers also find use in drag racing as their capacity to provide acceleration from a standstill is very beneficial in the sport.

How do superchargers create extra torque

Source: shutterstock.com/ Photo Contributor: Brandon Woyshnis


Devices like turbochargers and superchargers are widespread in the auto industry with various use cases. These forced induction systems both boost the engine’s performance by delivering more compressed air into the combustion chamber. 

However, their methods significantly differ as they utilize different energy sources to perform their respective tasks. So, what is the difference between a turbocharger and a supercharger?

Turbochargers use the exhaust gases from the engine to generate power for the compressor. Conversely, superchargers rely on the engine’s crankshaft to power their actions.

What forced compression device you should install in your car largely depends on your performance goals. There are also more pragmatic factors like the engine’s size and design, as it needs to be compatible with your chosen device.

Effectively comparing turbochargers versus superchargers requires the power outputs they supply. Turbochargers generate extra power at higher RPMs, whereas superchargers can immediately add extra power to the engine. 


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