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Petrol vs Diesel – Which Engine is Best?

by Dave Dobson

Choosing between a petrol or a diesel-powered car is one of the first things you need to think about when buying a new car. What is going to be the best for how you drive, for the environment and your wallet? Because of this, I am going to give you some tips to help you decide between a petrol or diesel engine for your new car.

Assessing your motoring needs

From a financial angle, there is now less and less difference between petrol and diesel cars. It is still true that if you look at pure fuel running costs, a diesel will cost less. You will have to have high annual mileages and use motorways frequently to see the financial benefits.

This is because newer diesel vehicles now have higher tax, which can cost almost as much as the fuel savings you could make in a year, and there are worries over air pollution that can be caused by diesels. Checking out car tax prices can help you understand if potential car purchases are affected by tax prices.

It is also true that a diesel vehicle will typically cost more than the equivalent petrol car. Diesel fuel also costs more than petrol. So you will need to work out if this saving in fuel consumption will offset the extra expense of a diesel car and its running costs. For example, if you drive a diesel car more than 12,000 miles in a year, you could recoup £1,000 in a couple of years.

But if your mileage is around 6,000 miles a year it could take up to around four years to see the same kind of financial benefit. With the new rules surrounding tax on diesel cars, and some cities such as London due to increase the penalties for diesels, resell values of diesels will probably be a bit lower, especially if you decide to change your car within the next 5 years.

That means that if most of your journeys are local and your mileage is small, a small petrol car might make more financial sense. Especially if you are the kind of person who likes to drive a car until it dies. Also, keep in mind that newer diesels have a special filter fitted to help prevent pollution. It is called a diesel particulate filter or DPF. These can clog if the vehicle is not regularly used on a motorway and is costly to fix or replace. This suggests that if you do not use motorways regularly, a diesel might not be for you.

 

Petrol Engines

Pros of Petrol

  • Financially: petrol is cheaper than diesel fuel and the cars tend to be slightly cheaper to buy and service. This is because there are generally more petrol cars on the road, so it is easier to source parts for repairs and maintenance aiding to keep the prices down.
  • Environmental: While CO2 emissions are higher than diesel, petrol cars produce less dangerous emissions that are not CO2 bases, like nitrogen for instance.
  • Driving experience: Petrol engines are usually less noisy than their diesel counterparts.

Cons of Petrol

  • Financial: Petrol engines are less efficient and use more fuel than diesel, especially at higher speeds on motorways.
  • Environmental: Petrol engines emit more CO2 than diesel cars.
  • Driving experience: Petrol engines need the driver to change gear more regularly, for example when overtaking, to make sure the engine has enough power to quickly and safely overtake. But this is a matter of personal taste, some prefer it.

 

Diesel Engines

Pros of Diesel

  • Financially: diesel engines are more efficient and use up to 20% less fuel suggesting cheaper running costs. The cars typically tend to have a slightly higher resale value as well, but this has been changing as of late.
  • Environment: lower CO2 emissions means that diesels from before April 2017 get a lower tax band than petrol engine cars. For newer diesel cars though, tax is typically higher than for petrol.
  • Driving experience: diesel cars offer more low-speed torque which means they have better overtaking power and fair better with towing related tasks.

Cons of Diesel

  • Financial: diesel cars usually cost more than petrol. Diesel fuel is more expensive than petrol and servicing or fixing a big issue in a diesel car can be a bit more expensive. New diesel cars also cost more to tax than petrol cars, and depreciation is now a little higher. There are several new charges, such as the London T-Charge and Ultra Low Emissions Zone, that will make it more expensive if you plan on driving in those areas.
  • Environmental: despite lower CO2 emissions, diesel fuel produces tiny particles linked to breathing disorders such as asthma.
  • Driving experience: diesel engines tend to be slightly noisier, but with newer models this issue is addressed.

 

Conclusion

To conclude, the choice comes down to what kind of journeys you will be regularly doing. If you are only doing short trips to the shop or supermarket, then a petrol engine makes perfect sense. On the other hand, if you are driving on motorways the whole time you will see savings with a diesel car.

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