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Miles vs. Kilometer: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 23, 2023
Miles are a unit of length in the imperial system equal to 5280 feet, while kilometers are a metric unit of length equal to 1000 meters.

Key Differences

Miles, a unit in the imperial system, are often used in countries like the United States for measuring distances. In contrast, kilometers are used in the metric system, prevalent in most parts of the world for distance measurement.
One mile is approximately equal to 1.609 kilometers, highlighting the conversion factor between these two units. Conversely, one kilometer is about 0.621 miles, often used for shorter distances than miles.
In history, the mile has seen various definitions but is now standardized at 5280 feet. The kilometer, as part of the metric system, has a fixed definition of 1000 meters, making it consistent globally.
Miles are commonly used in road signage and speed limits in the United States. However, kilometers are standard in these contexts in countries using the metric system.
In athletic events, distances are often measured in miles in countries like the United States, whereas kilometers are used in international and Olympic events.

Comparison Chart




5280 feet
1000 meters


Predominantly in the US and UK
Worldwide, except US and few others


1 mile = 1.609 km
1 km = 0.621 miles


Road distances, speed in US
Road distances, speed globally

Miles and Kilometer Definitions


A measure for denoting large distances in astronomy.
The asteroid passed Earth by several million miles.


A unit of length in the metric system, equal to 1000 meters.
The park is 2 kilometers from my house.


A term often used in aviation and maritime for distance.
The flight covered over 6000 miles.


Commonly used in most countries for road distance.
The sign indicated 10 kilometers to the nearest town.


Also used in expressing the range of vehicles or travel.
This car has a range of 400 miles on a full tank.


Also a reference point in discussions of fuel efficiency.
This car’s fuel efficiency is 15 kilometers per liter.


Used for measuring long distances, especially in road travel.
He drove 500 miles on his road trip.


A standard measure in athletic events for races.
She ran a 5-kilometer race last weekend.


A unit of distance measurement in the imperial system.
The next town is 30 miles away.


Used in geographical mapping and land measurement.
The forest covers an area of about 300 square kilometers.


Abbr. mi. or mi A unit of length equal to 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards (1,609 meters), used in the United States and other English-speaking countries. Also called land mile, statute mile. See Table at measurement.


A metric unit of length equal to 1,000 meters (0.62 mile). See Table at measurement.


A nautical mile.


Alternative spelling of kilometre


An air mile.


A measure of length, being a thousand meters. It is equal to 3,280.84 feet, or 0.62137119 of a mile.


(Sports) A race that is one mile long.


A metric unit of length equal to 1000 meters (or 0.621371 miles)


A relatively great distance
Had to walk for miles in the airport.


Plural of mile


(informal) A great distance in space or time.
His final shot missed the bullseye by miles.
From the top of the hill you can see for miles.
No need to hurry. The deadline is miles away.


Much; a lot used to emphasise a comparative
Her new paintings are miles better than her older ones.


What is the metric equivalent of a mile?

Approximately 1.609 kilometers.

Where are miles predominantly used?

In the United States and the United Kingdom.

What is a kilometer?

A metric unit of length equal to 1000 meters.

What countries use kilometers?

Most countries worldwide, except the US and a few others.

How is kilometer commonly used?

For measuring distances, especially on roads globally.

Is mile used in aviation?

Yes, especially for distance measurement.

How are miles used in vehicle ranges?

To express how far a vehicle can travel on a tank or charge.

What is a mile?

A unit of distance in the imperial system, equal to 5280 feet.

How many meters are in a kilometer?

1000 meters.

How many feet are in a mile?

5280 feet.

Can miles and kilometers be converted?

Yes, through a conversion factor (1 mile = 1.609 km).

Do maps in the US use miles or kilometers?

Primarily miles, but sometimes both.

Is kilometer used in athletics?

Yes, particularly in races and international events.

Why is the kilometer part of the metric system?

For standard and consistent global measurement.

Are kilometers used in space distances?

Yes, often for shorter astronomical distances.

In which sports are kilometers predominantly used?

In track and field, cycling, and road races.

Are miles used in maritime distances?

Yes, commonly in nautical miles.

Do GPS systems use miles or kilometers?

They can use both, depending on the settings.

How do car odometers in the US display distance?

Typically in miles.

How do miles relate to speed limits in the US?

Speed limits are expressed in miles per hour.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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