How to check the brake horsepower (BHP) of a car

    Brake horsepower (BHP) measures the amount of power generated from your car’s engine. Whether you’re a seasoned petrolhead or a new driver, understanding this number, and what it means for your vehicle, is key to getting the most out of your car or van’s capabilities. 

    BHP is a good measure of vehicle performance. As vehicles are designed for different purposes, what counts as a ‘good’ BHP varies. Having a documented BHP can positively impact your car’s value when you choose to sell.

    Let’s rev up and explore the intricacies of determining your car’s BHP.

    Understanding brake horsepower

    red ferrari
    BHP measures the amount of power that your car engine produces.

    BHP calculates how much power your car engine generates to move the vehicle. This is the total output of power created by your engine, before losses from friction or other factors. BHP is crucial for understanding a vehicle’s performance and is often used in automotive engineering and performance tuning.

    How do I check my engine brake horsepower?

    The easiest way to check your vehicle engine’s brake horsepower (BHP) is to use TotalCarCheck. Here, it’s as simple as entering vehicle registration and pressing the ‘Click to Check’ button below it. This will give you access to a huge range of information about your car including the make, model, MOT status and road tax status. 

    Total Car Check has both free and paid for services. The paid-for plans cover things like finance and log book checks, but checking your brake horsepower (BHP) is part of their free service and found in the ‘Vehicle Details’ column.

    Horsepower vs. BHP

    Horsepower and BHP are closely linked, but not the same. Horsepower, or HP, measures the power generated by your engine. It quantifies the engine’s raw power output, before any losses in the drivetrain. 

    BHP is a more precise measurement of automotive power, and is the metric historically used in the UK. BHP refers to how much of this power is sent to your wheels to move the vehicle. BHP output is measured at the engine’s crankshaft, and takes into account all frictional power losses occurring during transmission, in the drivetrain, or in other components. 

    This small but vital distinction provides a standardized measure of engine efficiency and performance potential. 

    Why is BHP important?

    There are many benefits to knowing your car’s BHP. A handful include: 

    1. Maximising performance – Knowing your BHP allows you to better gauge your car’s acceleration potential, top speed, and overall power delivery. Car enthusiasts often use BHP data for performance tuning and optimise engine settings to enhance power output and their overall driving experience.

    2. Signaling maintenance issues – Monitoring changes in BHP over time can signal potential problems with your engine or drivetrain, prompting timely maintenance and preventing costly repairs.

    3. Helping resale value – A documented BHP figure can positively impact the resale value of your car, especially in enthusiast markets where performance is a key selling point.

    4. Insurance – Some insurance providers consider BHP when calculating premiums, as higher-powered vehicles may pose different risks than their lower-powered counterparts.

    5. Comparing vehicles – Knowing the BHP of your vehicle enables you to compare it with other cars in its class or market segment, aiding in informed decision-making when buying, selling, or upgrading.

    Determining your car’s BHP

    double exhausts of a car
    BHP can be calculated online or by hand.

    We break down the different ways of measuring BHP below: 

    Dynamometer (dyno) testingDyno testing involves running your car on a stationary platform while measuring power output directly at the wheels or engine. 
    A chassis dyno test measures power output by driving the wheels on a dyno, while an engine dyno test directly assesses power at the engine’s crankshaft, offering precise BHP readings but requiring specialized equipment.
    Manufacturer specificationsConsult your vehicle’s specifications provided by the manufacturer, often available in the owner’s manual or official documentation.
    Performance testingConduct acceleration tests, such as 0-60 mph runs or quarter-mile sprints, using GPS-based performance metres or timing equipment. Use performance data and vehicle weight to estimate BHP.
    Aftermarket modificationsInstalling aftermarket performance parts, such as exhaust systems or engine tuners, and dyno-testing the vehicle before and after modifications can help assess changes in BHP.
    Engine calculationsCalculate your BHP by hand. Measure your car’s peak torque output and RPM using a torque wrench and tachometer. Then, use the formula: BHP = (Torque × RPM) / 5252 to calculate BHP. Note: this will be approximate.
    Online databases and toolsExplore BHP ratings websites to see average HP and BHP for different car makes and models. These resources aggregate data from sources including manufacturer specifications, dyno tests, and user submissions. 
    Alternatively, use virtual BHP calculators. These calculators estimate your car’s BHP based on inputs such as engine displacement, torque, and engine speed (RPM).
    Professional evaluationSeek assessment from automotive experts or performance shops equipped with dyno-testing facilities for accurate BHP measurements and analysis.


    What is a good BHP on a car?

    A good BHP depends on the car’s purpose. For everyday driving, aim for 100 to 200 BHP. Sports cars typically have 200 to 500 BHP, while high-performance vehicles like supercars may exceed 700 BHP.

    How much BHP do I need for 200 mph?

    To reach 200 mph, aim for 500+ BHP. However, achieving this speed also depends on factors like aerodynamics, gearing, and traction control systems, not just horsepower and BHP alone.

    How do I check my engine horsepower (HP)?

    You can check your engine’s horsepower, or HP, using several methods. Consult your car’s manual or the manufacturer’s website for official figures. Alternatively, consider dyno testing, online horsepower calculators, or consulting with a tuner for aftermarket modifications.

    How can I track the value of my car?

    If you’re not sure what your car’s value is to begin with, it’s hard to know how its BHP may affect the price.

    All vehicles depreciate at varying rates, with no rule of averages accurately describing any one car’s changing value. Motorway’s Car Value Tracker provides a free, reliable monthly price alert for up to six vehicles at once. 

    Follow changes to your car’s value to choose the best time to sell, and make informed choices about investments in your car’s maintenance.

    Need to sell your car?

    Want to learn more about owning, maintaining, and selling your car? Check out more of our guides here, covering everything from Clean Air Zones to car tax, and plate changes to part exchange.