Motorists will spend over £100,000 on fuel, whether diesel or petrol, during their driving lives—an expense that will ultimately dwarf even the cost of vehicles and car insurance.
Whether you select a diesel or petrol vehicle will have an impact on not only the cost of driving but also your insurance premiums, motoring experience, and impact on the environment. It’s the first decision you’ll need to make when purchasing or leasing a new car and one that will affect you every time you get behind the wheel, or pull up to the pump, so it’s one you need to get right.
- Vehicle Cost: Diesel cars cost more to purchase and more to service or repair. As of April 2018, you’ll also face higher road tax on new diesel cars, at a level that reflects your diesel vehicle’s carbon emissions. In the past, diesel vehicles had higher resell value to reflect their higher purchase cost, but the scandal about diesel emissions and restrictions on driving diesel vehicles in some city centres have led to sharper price depreciation in recent years.
- Fuel Cost: Diesel costs more at the pump but diesel vehicles are 15-20% more efficient than petrol vehicles. However, you’ll only reap the financial benefits of this greater fuel economy if you rack up a lot of annual mileage—generally more than 12,000 miles—and do lots of driving on motorways. If you have a lower annual mileage and make primarily local trips, it will take you years of diving to offset the higher purchase and taxation cost of a diesel vehicle. Research from Which? revealed that it can take between 6 and 11 years for greater fuel economy to offset the higher initial cost of diesel vehicles.
- Car Insurance: Car insurance costs 10-15% more for diesel vehicles than for comparable petrol vehicles, to account for higher accident repair charges and higher replacement costs. If you opt for a diesel vehicle, it will be even more crucial to compare car insurance deals, to ensure you find the most cover for the cheapest premiums.
- Environmental Impact: Because diesel vehicles are more fuel efficient, they emit less carbon dioxide. However, diesel combustion exhaust is significantly more harmful to human health than petrol exhaust, contributing more greatly to air pollution that causes asthma and other lung conditions, heart problems, cancer, and even declines in mental functioning. To combat this pollution, cities have placed or are considering restrictions on diesel vehicles, either in the form of higher charges or by banning them from city centres altogether. For example, For example, London is introducing an Ultra Low Emission Zone from April 2019 that will penalize drivers of diesel vehicles, adding to their running cost. So, when trying to find a used car for sale in London, make sure it’s not a diesel.
- Driving Experience: Diesel cars have more low-speed torque, so they overtake more effortlessly and can be used to tow other vehicles. Diesel engines tend to run more noisily than petrol engines, although advancements have quieted them considerably.
- Bottom Line: Choose diesel if you do a great deal of motorway driving and don’t often venture into city centres.
- Vehicle Cost: Petrol vehicles are cheaper to purchase up front and cheaper to service and repair. And with the new tax regime for diesel vehicles, you’ll save money there too with a petrol vehicle.
- Fuel Cost: Petrol costs less at the pump than diesel but petrol vehicles run less efficiently than diesel vehicles, so you’ll be refilling the tank more often. But if you drive fewer than 12,000 miles a year, the lower cost of buying, maintaining, and fuelling a petrol cost will offset all those bills at the supermarket forecourt.
- Car Insurance: Car insurance premiums for petrol vehicles are 10-15% cheaper than those for equivalent diesel vehicles, to reflect the lower repair and replacement cost for petrol vehicles.
- Environmental Impact: Petrol vehicles emit more CO2 than diesel vehicles, due to their lower fuel efficiency. However, their exhaust is less toxic to human health, containing less nitrogen and other dangerous emissions. Consequently, petrol vehicles are penalised less heavily in low emissions zones. On the environment, it’s roughly a wash between petrol and diesel, but you can reduce your carbon footprint with petrol vehicles by driving less.
- Driving Experience: You’ll need to change gears more frequently when driving a petrol vehicle, especially when overtaking, but some drivers prefer this more engaged style of driving. Petrol engines run less loudly than diesel engines.
- Bottom Line: Choose a petrol vehicle if you drive fewer than 12,000 miles a year, mostly in local journeys or in city centres.
It’s important to note that the sale of all new diesel and petrol vehicles will be banned from 2040. Increasing numbers of British motorists are already embracing cars that use alternative sources of fuel, including electricity.
As electric cars have proliferated and charging infrastructure developed, the costs of purchasing and running these cars has come down considerably, and drivers can benefit from government incentives worth thousands of pounds when purchasing one.