The answer might surprise you.

Car Covered in Frost
Credit: BrianAJackson/Getty Images

It's something most of us do in the winter, but is there actually any benefit to letting your car idle for a few minutes to warm it up before driving?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the answer is a big fat no. Not only have modern cars made this unnecessary, but it can also be unsafe. Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more harmful emissions than stopping and restarting your engine does.

Today's cars warm up faster by driving than idling.

"Even on the coldest days, most manufacturers recommend avoiding idling and driving off gently after running the vehicle for about 30 seconds," the Energy Department reports. "Not only will the engine warm up faster by being ‘at work,' but the car's interior will warm up more quickly as well."

In fact, drivers haven't needed to warm their cars up since the ‘80s.

"In the old days, Dad went out and warmed up the car in the morning. And there were lots of reasons to warm it up, the biggest of which was that the oil was like molasses," Car Talk host Ray Magliozzi explained on NPR's All Things Considered. "I mean, back in the old days, if you tried to pour oil out of a can in, you know, 5-degree weather, it wouldn't budge."

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"It made perfect sense until probably the '80s, until we switched over to fuel injection," Magliozzi continued.

Not only that, but leaving your vehicle idling like putting up a neon sign for car thieves. So this year, hop in and drive off when the temperatures drop—your car will thank you.