Turbo vs. Supercharger: What's the Difference?

While our cars and trucks come loaded with power, many of us search for further enhancements. As there are several tactics to consider, a common approach is to install a turbo or supercharger.

While both a turbo and supercharged engine have a few similarities, there are some differences to consider. In this post, we’ll talk more about turbochargers and superchargers. We’ll discuss how they work, the benefits they offer, and which one may be a better solution for your needs.

What Are Turbochargers?

A turbocharger, also called a turbocharged engine, is a vehicle component consisting of a turbine and air compressor. A main feature of this engine type is that it uses waste exhaust gas to function, which offers great fuel efficiency. This process forces air into the cylinders, providing greater power with less fuel consumption.

Benefits of Turbocharging

Turbocharged engines provide several benefits for the driver, the vehicle, and even the planet. Take a look at these advantages below:

  1. Increased Power

A turbocharger helps to boost power in your ride, letting you achieve high speed when you need it most. Additionally, this increase in power doesn’t require a bigger engine. You’ll get the same engine size with greater power and performance. This example is seen with the Ford EcoBoost engine.

  1. Greater Fuel Economy

Improved fuel economy is another leading benefit of a turbocharged engine. As these components produce the same power as larger engines that require more fuel, they’re much better for the planet, including your wallet. Even some modern engines in diesel vehicles use turbochargers, helping reduce emissions and save money on fuel.

  1. Quiet Engine Sounds

As a turbo charger involves a smaller engine, this leads to noise reduction. These engines also feature more components that improve airflow, which also lowers the noise. You’ll also notice that turbochargers provide a smoother sound. 

  1. More Torque

Drivers everywhere are always looking for ways to increase torque. However, many people don’t think this can happen with a smaller engine. A turbocharger makes this all possible! In fact, this torque works at its best when using the lower rev range. This is perfect for driving around town and in low-speed situations. In these scenarios, turbocharged engines outperform larger, bulkier engines.

Negatives of Turbocharging

While turbochargers provide a long list of benefits, there are also some disadvantages to consider. Here are a few negatives of turbocharged engines:

  • High repair costs

  • Not effective with certain driving styles

  • Turbo lag

As turbochargers are very complex engines, they aren’t easy to fix. This can drive up those repair bills. That said, it’s important to properly maintain these engines to prevent complications.

While these engines offer impressive fuel economy benefits with greater engine power, they aren’t suited for certain driving habits. For example, if the throttle is pressed too hard, these engines burn fuel more quickly, leading to poor fuel efficiency. To reap the most benefit, it’s important to drive at lower speeds. This may require the driver to change their habits to achieve the greatest fuel economy.

With regard to turbo lag, this involves a slight delay in response after hitting the throttle. This usually happens when the engine doesn’t have enough exhaust gasses to spin the intake turbine fast enough. However, this typically only happens when a turbocharged vehicle is driven aggressively.

Examples of Turbochargers

Today, there are several different types of turbocharged engines. This list includes the following:

  • Single-Turbo

  • Twin-Turbo

  • Twin-Scroll Turbo

  • Variable Geometry Turbo

  • Variable Twin Scroll Turbo

  • Electric Turbo

If you’re searching for a quick and easy way to boost power and performance, a single turbo is a great option. However, they aren’t very efficient at high speeds; they’re best when running at a low RPM. If you want something that stays efficient with more power, shoot for a twin-turbo.

Twin-scroll turbochargers are engines that feature two scrolls, providing a separated exhaust stream setup. This leads to increased power and a wider RPM range. 

A powerful yet rare engine type is a variate geometry turbo. These only use one turbo, so the setup is simplified. They also work at a very wide RPM range. 

A variable twin-scroll turbo and an electric turbo are also excellent options, and they’re more sophisticated than the other types. However, they are currently more expensive than the other turbo engines on the market. But when you don’t need to buy gas for an electric motor, this can lead to substantial savings.

What Are Superchargers?

A supercharged engine is another solution for adding more power without increasing engine size. These components feature a forced air induction system, which leads to greater performance and improved efficiency. One key difference between a turbocharger and a supercharger involves the source of energy. While a turbocharger works with the help of waste exhaust gases, a supercharger is powered mechanically by a belt or chain drive. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of supercharged engines.

Benefits of Supercharging

A supercharger can take your ride to new heights. With increased power, you can go places you’ve never been before. Take a look at the leading advantages of supercharging:

  1. Increased Horsepower

Given the advanced forced induction systems, this increase in air leads to an increase in horsepower. If you add this engine to a basic car or truck, it will function like it has a much larger engine. This can help when driving up hills, carrying a heavy load, or when trying to pass someone. If you want high power and outstanding fuel economy, consider a supercharged engine over a turbo.

  1. No Lag

Another huge perk to consider is that a supercharger doesn’t create any lag, which is common with turbocharged engines. This lag happens because it takes some time for the exhaust system to pump gas to drive the turbine wheel. However, with superchargers, they’re powered directly from the crankshaft. This leads to faster, more responsive power.

  1. Simple Installation

While a supercharger involves a complex modification of the exhaust system, it can easily be attached to the side or top of the engine. This means a fast, simple installation. This also leads to easy maintenance and repairs, resulting in cost savings.

Negatives of Supercharging

While superchargers provide a long list of benefits, there are also some drawbacks to consider. Take a look at these disadvantages below:

  • They must steal some horsepower from the engine

  • Supercharged engines are harder to maintain

  • The process puts strain on the engine

  • Some manufacturers suggest using premium gas, which costs more

As the crankshaft is used to power superchargers, they need to take their power from somewhere. Unfortunately, it has to be pulled from the engine. In fact, a supercharger uses about 20% of the total power output of an engine. However, when you factor in the increased horsepower and performance, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Cost is another huge factor to consider. As this engine type involves a great deal of engine strain, manufacturers must use heavy-duty materials. However, this drives up the price. And when you add the element of using premium gas, the costs soar even higher. But as power will significantly increase with better fuel efficiency, the advantages can be more impactful than the negatives.

Examples of Superchargers

When it comes to superchargers, there are three types to consider: roots, twin-screw, and centrifugal. The key difference to understand about these types of engines is how they move air into the intake manifold.

A roots supercharger is one that uses two rotors to compress incoming air before sending it to the engine. This design is very old. In fact, it was patented way back in 1860.

A twin-screw supercharger also works with two rotors, but they’re wound together like screws instead of gears. Air is compressed as the gears rotate.

Centrifugal superchargers function with the help of an impeller that compresses the air into a small compressor housing. The impeller can reach speeds of 50,000 to 60,000 RPM. When air is pulled into the system, centrifugal force causes the air to radiate outward. Centrifugal superchargers are the most efficient type out there, also making them the most common.

Which is the Better Choice?


When you look at the pros and cons of both turbos and superchargers, deciding on the best option for your needs can be challenging. However, it really depends on what matters most to you. If fuel economy and efficiency are more important to you than power and torque, a turbocharger could be the right solution for you. On the other hand, if you want raw horsepower, higher speeds, and more power overall, shoot for a supercharger. You’ll pay more money and have lower efficiency, but the power is there. It all depends on your preferences.

Beef Up Your Ride With Specialty Performance Parts

Looking to add a high-quality turbo or supercharger to your vehicle? If so, Specialty Performance Parts has the products you can count on. We don’t sell cheap products from several 3rd party manufacturers—we only offer the high-quality, durable parts we trust. Furthermore, we also design, engineer, and manufacture our own products. 

To reach peak power and efficiency on your vehicle, pick up a Specialty Performance Parts Supercharger today!