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Diesel or petrol: making the choice

  Wednesday, 1 October 2014

One of the first decisions that you have to make when picking up your first car is whether you want to go with a petrol vehicle or a diesel one.  Today, we’re going to take a look at the differences between the two, and which one is likely to suit you best.

The price difference

In the UK, diesel can be more expensive than petrol, with fuel pricing favouring the latter.  As well as this, the advances in petrol engine technology has led to increased levels of efficiency, bringing it closer to diesel.  As a result, the diesel premium – typically between £1000 and £2000 on an otherwise identical vehicle – can now be seriously questioned.

One of the most common arguments is that, in the long run, diesel vehicles are more economical.  This is certainly true; however, it can take much longer than people think to recoup the costs.  (If you’re unsure, consider using this Which? petrol and diesel fuel calculator to work out how long it would take you).

The other key financial consideration to make is the residual value of the cars: namely, that diesel cars generally retain their value better than their petrol-based cousins.  They’re currently in high demand, with consumers looking for better fuel economy and lower car tax rates. 

Reliability

A study conducted by Which? in 2012 showed that, as a general rule, diesel-powered cars were slightly less reliable than petrol ones.  Not by a huge amount, but if you don’t have a lot of disposable cash to spend on repairs it’s something worth bearing in mind.

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Repairs

Typically, routine maintenance costs are similar for both petrol and diesel cars.  The difference comes on the more in-depth, serious repairs are often more expensive for a diesel system.  One noticeable problem with diesel cars is their use of particulate filters, filters that sometimes get clogged (especially if the car is only used on short journeys).  Replacing them is a repair that can sometimes stretch into the thousands.

Car tax, insurance and servicing

Diesel engines are normally more efficient than their petrol counterparts – it remains one of their main selling points. As a result, their CO2 usage is typically lower, leading to correspondingly lower car tax liability.  However, the difference in serving costs is largely pretty negligible.

The price of insurance will largely vary according to the model of the car: for some, diesel will be cheaper.  For others, it’ll be petrol.  No useful information to impart here, we’re afraid!

What else should you take into account?

Smooth driving.  Never to be underestimated! Traditional views hold that petrol cars are usually quieter, smoother and faster than their diesel counterparts.  However, in recent years diesel models have become more refined, so if this your main interest it’s worth giving them a try.

Diesel engines typically offer increased torque from lower revs, which is useful when towing or over-taking.

Overall, diesel cars will use less fuel for a given mileage, and are considered much better for the environment.  If you’re a green thinker, then you should definitely consider investing in a diesel model.

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