What is a US gallon in UK Litres?

Quick Answer

A US gallon is approximately 3.78541 litres in the UK measurement system. The exact conversion is:

1 US gallon = 3.78541 litres

So a US gallon is just under 4 litres when converted to UK units.

Detailed Answer

The gallon is a unit of volume used in both the US customary system of measurement as well as the imperial system used in the UK. However, the definitions are slightly different.

The US Gallon

The US gallon is based on the wine gallon that was used in the British Empire prior to metrication. It is defined as exactly 231 cubic inches, which is equivalent to 3.78541 litres. The US gallon is commonly used in the United States to measure volumes of liquid fuels and fluids.

The Imperial Gallon

The imperial gallon used in the UK is defined as 277.42 cubic inches or approximately 4.546 litres. It is about 20% larger than the US gallon. The imperial gallon is used in some Commonwealth Nations such as Canada, Jamaica, and Barbados. However, most Commonwealth nations use the metric system exclusively today.

The difference in the exact definitions of the two gallons is due to the adoption of the international yard and pound agreement of 1959, which standardized US and Imperial measurements to different values.

Converting between Gallons and Litres

To convert between the two gallons, a conversion factor must be used. Since 1 US gallon is defined as 3.78541 litres, the conversion factor is:

1 US gallon = 3.78541 litres

To convert UK imperial gallons to US gallons:

Imperial gallons x 1.200949925 = US gallons

So for example, 5 imperial gallons x 1.200949925 = 6 US gallons.

To convert US gallons to imperial gallons:

US gallons x 0.8326741846 = Imperial gallons

So for example, 5 US gallons x 0.8326741846 = 4.163370923 imperial gallons.

To summarize:

1 US gallon = 3.78541 litres
1 Imperial gallon = 4.54609 litres
1 US gallon = 0.832674 imperial gallons
1 Imperial gallon = 1.20095 US gallons

So a US gallon is approximately 3.78541 litres in the UK system. To convert between the two gallons, simple multiplication and division using the conversion factors can be used.

Why the Difference?

Many may wonder why there is a difference between the US and Imperial gallons in the first place if both systems originated in the British Empire.

The answer lies in the history and development of measurement systems.

The Early Gallon

Dating back to medieval times, a gallon originally referred to the volume of 4 gills. A gill was considered the amount of wine or beer that could comfortably be drunk in one swallow.

However, the exact size of a gill was not standardized, varying from region to region. This meant gallons also varied depending on locality.

The Wine Gallon

It wasn’t until the early 18th century that a standardized definition was introduced in the British Empire, known as the wine gallon. This was set as the volume occupied by 10 pounds of distilled water weighed in air with brass weights. This was equivalent to approximately 3.785 litres.

The wine gallon became the standard for measuring spirits and wine in the British Empire. It later evolved into the US gallon.

The Ale Gallon

In Britain, a separate standard was used for measuring ale and beer, known as the ale gallon. It was defined as 282 cubic inches, or approximately 4.621 litres. The ale gallon was gradually phased out in the 19th century as the imperial system standardised on the wine gallon instead.

The Imperial Gallon

It was only in 1824 that the imperial gallon was introduced as a compromise between the ale gallon and the wine gallon at 277.42 cubic inches. This bridges the gap between the two definitions.

The Imperial gallon was adopted as the standard across the British Empire, while the US stuck with the original wine gallon definition. Hence the difference we see today between the US and imperial gallons.

Using Gallons in Recipes and Everyday Life

Understanding gallon conversions is important for following recipes and measuring fluid volumes accurately:

  • When an American recipe specifies ingredients in gallons, use the US gallon conversion (3.78541 litres) to calculate the right amount in metric units.
  • For British recipes specifying imperial gallons, multiply by 4.54609 litres instead.
  • Be careful when substituting ingredients measured in gallons between British and American recipes. Use the conversion factors to adjust amounts correctly.
  • Pay attention to fluid gallons sold in UK supermarkets – fuel is sold in imperial gallons but other products like milk or water often use US gallons.
  • When estimating fuel economy, be aware your UK mpg calculation is based on imperial gallons instead of US gallons.

Taking note of which gallon definition a recipe or product is using avoids confusion and ensures you get the measurements right.

Global Trends in Gallon Usage

Despite the continued use of the US and imperial gallons, the general trend globally has been towards using metric units:

US Gallons

  • Almost exclusively used only in the United States today.
  • US territories like the Northern Mariana Islands, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam also use US gallons.

Imperial Gallons

  • Have been replaced by litres for most uses in the UK, Australia and New Zealand despite being defined in law.
  • Still legally mandated for use in trade in the UK when measuring beer, cider, and milk.
  • Also commonly used in some Caribbean countries alongside metric units.

Metric System

  • The litre is now the dominant unit for measuring fluid volumes globally.
  • Metric use has steadily increased worldwide since the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Most countries have officially adopted the metric system, with the US being a notable exception.

The use of gallons is now generally declining worldwide due to the convenience of base-10 metric volumes for conversion, arithmetic, and international consistency. But gallons remain important for converting between old recipes and volumes in some countries.

Difference Between US and Imperial Gallons

To summarize, the key differences between the US gallon and imperial gallon are:

US Gallon Imperial Gallon
Equals 3.78541 litres Equals 4.54609 litres
Defined as 231 cubic inches Defined as 277.42 cubic inches
Known as the wine gallon Introduced in 1824 as a compromise between the ale gallon and wine gallon
Used primarily in the US Used in some Commonwealth Nations

So while both systems originated from the same wine gallon definition, standardization caused the US and imperial gallons to diverge. The imperial gallon is approximately 20% larger than the US gallon.

Converting Gallons to Litres

The metric litre is now used almost universally for government, science, commerce and everyday purposes. So most gallon conversions will be to litres:

  • 1 US gallon = 3.78541 litres
  • 1 Imperial gallon = 4.54609 litres

To convert, simply multiply the number of gallons by the conversion factor for that gallon definition.

Some examples:

US Gallons to Litres

  • 5 US gallons x 3.78541 = 18.92705 litres
  • 15 US gallons x 3.78541 = 56.78115 litres
  • 55 US gallons x 3.78541 = 208.1978 litres

Imperial Gallons to Litres

  • 5 Imperial gallons x 4.54609 = 22.73045 litres
  • 20 Imperial gallons x 4.54609 = 90.9218 litres
  • 120 Imperial gallons x 4.54609 = 545.5308 litres

So converting between gallons and litres is straightforward using the simple multiplication formula. Handy for converting gallons to metric system units.

Gallons to Millilitres Conversion

For more precise measurements, you may want to convert gallons to millilitres (ml) instead of litres (l).

To convert:

  • 1 litre = 1000 millilitres
  • So first convert gallons to litres
  • Then multiply the litres by 1000 to get millilitres

For example:

US Gallons to Millilitres

  • 1 US gallon = 3.78541 litres
  • 3.78541 litres x 1000 = 3785.41 millilitres

Therefore, 1 US gallon = 3785.41 ml

Some more examples:

  • 3 US gallons = 3 x 3785.41 = 11356.23 ml
  • 55 US gallons = 55 x 3785.41 = 2081978.5 ml

Imperial Gallons to Millilitres

  • 1 Imperial gallon = 4.54609 litres
  • 4.54609 litres x 1000 = 45460.9 ml

Therefore, 1 Imperial gallon = 45460.9 ml

Some more examples:

  • 5 Imperial gallons = 5 x 45460.9 = 227304.5 ml
  • 250 Imperial gallons = 250 x 45460.9 = 11365225 ml

So converting gallons to millilitres just requires a simple two-step calculation, handy for very precise measurements.

Converting Gallons to Cubic Metres

While gallons are a unit of volume, cubic metres (m3) are commonly used for large volume measurements.

To convert gallons to cubic metres:

  • 1000 litres = 1 cubic metre
  • First convert gallons to litres
  • Then divide the litres by 1000 to get cubic metres


US Gallons to Cubic Metres

  • 1000 US gallons = 3785.41 x 1000 = 378541 litres
  • 378541 litres / 1000 = 378.541 cubic metres

So 1000 US gallons = 378.541 m3

Imperial Gallons to Cubic Metres

  • 300 Imperial gallons = 45460.9 x 300 = 1363827 litres
  • 1363827 litres / 1000 = 1363.827 cubic metres

So 300 Imperial gallons = 1363.827 m3

This conversion can be handy when dealing with large fuel or water storage tanks measured in cubic metres and gallons.


While the US and imperial gallons differ due to historical standardization, conversions between gallons and litres are straightforward using the provided factors.

Being aware of which gallon definition is being used is key to accurate recipe measurements and fluid volume conversions.

Most applications have moved to using metric units globally, but gallon conversions remain useful for working with some recipes, fuel economy figures, industries, antiques, and international formulas.

Converting gallons to precise millilitres or large cubic metres is also simple using a two-step calculation.

So a US gallon equals 3.78541 litres in the UK measurement system. Handy to remember when converting fluid volumes or dealing with gallons in cross-country recipes and calculations.

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