It is more efficient than the older multiple belt system. By using a single, wider belt instead of multiple, thinner belts, the belt may be put under increased tension without stretching. Higher tension reduces slip, which increases belt life and mechanical efficiency. Reduced slip can allow the use of lower-ratio pulleys; this reduces the load on the engine, increasing gas mileage and available power. Additionally, it is easier for the driver to know when the belt has broken, since this will cause the steering resistance to suddenly increase on vehicles equipped with hydraulic power steering. With multiple belt systems, if a single belt breaks, such as the alternator belt, the driver may not realize that there is a problem before the engine becomes damaged.
A serpentine belt also is much easier to maintain and replace, since there is no need to remove multiple belts in order to replace one of them.
The drawback of this single belt is that if the belt breaks, the vehicle loses all peripheral devices. Some vehicles use two serpentine belts for their system, such as the 95–99 DOHC Nissan Maxima and many BMWs.