The pros and cons of buying a diesel car

Written by Hejab Azam

1 July, 2019

When thinking about buying or leasing a new car, one of the most important decisions a driver has to make is whether they want a petrol or diesel engine. There are lots of factors that need to be considered before making a decision, including the performance, running costs and emissions associated with buying a diesel car. This guide looks at all the facts, pros and cons and future of buying a diesel car to help you decide the best fuel type for you.

Should I buy a diesel car?

To decide whether it’s worth buying a diesel car, it’s important to familiarise yourself with recent charges that impact diesel drivers. The sale of new diesel cars will be banned in 2040, as outlined in the UK Air Quality plan for NO2 published in July 2017. This strategy also aims for almost every car and van on the road to be a zero-emissions vehicle by 2050. The report stipulates that the efforts to reduce NO2 need to be targeted on the sources that make the biggest contribution, with road vehicles contributing about 80% of pollution at the roadside – with the plan citing diesel cars as the primary source of the problem.

As part of the long-term strategy to reduce air pollution, a £10 toxicity charge was introduced in London’s Congestion Charge zone, which means that any diesel cars that don’t meet the Euro 6 emissions standards must pay an additional fee. This area of London became the first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in April 2019, resulting in an additional charge of £12.50 for most vehicle tyres that don’t meet the ULEZ emissions standards. Other cities that are currently considering introducing an ULEZ include Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.

Although your fuel type decision may be impacted by efforts to reduce air pollution, it’s mostly down to personal choice and your individual motoring needs.

Is it worth buying a diesel car?

Motorists can expect to spend an average of £100,000 on fuel during their driving life, regardless of whether they opt for diesel or petrol cars. While there’s now less financial difference between the running costs of petrol and diesel cars than ever before, it’s still true that diesel cars cost less in the long term for drivers with a high annual mileage and frequent motorway commute. Servicing, insurance and depreciation all vary between petrol and diesel variants of the same car, with diesel models tending to cost anything between £1,000 and £2,500 more to purchase upfront than petrol counterparts.

The higher purchase price of diesel cars tends to be due to the extra technology needed to get them through emissions tests, and also partly because drivers are prepared to pay more in the interest of saving money in the long run. While the pump price of petrol is generally lower, it’s outweighed for most by the increased efficiency of diesel engines that offer greater MPG.

Drivers will also need to consider the tax implications of buying a diesel car. Since April 2018, diesel owners pay more in car tax for the first year, with the company car tax surcharge also increasing from 3% to 4% for diesel cars. This means that company car tax is now up to the 37% maximum for cars that don’t meet the fuel economy and emissions criteria, as outlined by the Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP).

The pros and cons of buying a diesel car

When deciding whether to go for petrol, diesel or an alternative fuel for your next car, you should look at the characteristics of each to see whether they’re suited to your motoring needs, budget and environmental concerns. Although the future of diesel may seem uncertain due to efforts to reduce air pollution, there are still some benefits to buying a diesel car. These advantages include:

  • Fuel efficiency. Diesel cars are more efficient than petrol vehicles in the long run, generally using 15-20% less fuel and resulting in lower running costs.
  • CO2 emissions. While diesel fuel contains slightly more carbon per litre than petrol, the overall CO2 emissions of a diesel car tend to be lower than those of petrol.
  • Performance. Diesel cars are best paired with an automatic transmission due to them offering more low-speed torque than petrol, making them ideal for motorway driving and long commutes.

The primary criticism of diesel cars is emissions, as diesels are known to produce harmful pollutants like nitrous oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM) and carbon monoxide (CO). Although these pollutants are emitted by all cars with a combustion engine, including petrol and hybrid, diesels produce an average of 11.5 times the NOx of petrol variants.

Another ongoing issue is the diesel particulate filter (DPF) which can get clogged by exhaust soot over time. This soot has been linked to exacerbating asthma and other breathing conditions, leading to new MOT rules stating that any cars with a DPF emitting visible smoke or showing signs of tampering will not pass. Some other downsides to diesel are:

  • Increased cost. Diesel is more expensive to buy at the pump than petrol, and the higher purchase price of a diesel car can bump up insurance costs. New diesel cars also cost more to tax.
  • Driving experience. Diesel engines tend to be noisier than petrol due to their high running pressure. However, recent developments have been made to reduce this on newer models.

So, should you buy a diesel car? Diesel cars are best suited to drivers that cover over 15,000 miles a year, but if you’re a low-mileage driver it may make more sense to consider alternatives. If you’re looking for a vehicle that can offer a long-term investment, reduced upfront costs and lower carbon footprint, you may want to consider looking at hybrid or electric cars.

 Alternative Fuels

With more technological advancements being made than ever before, there’s hybrid, electric and LPG powered vehicles that offer a realistic alternative to petrol and diesel. Electric cars offer the practicality and functionality of traditional petrol and diesel-engined cars, while emitting zero exhaust pollutants and lowering day-to-day running costs. A hybrid car combines a conventional combustion petrol engine with an electric motor, working to reduce emissions, consume less fuel and lower road tax in comparison to traditional fuels.

As the demand for alternative fuels increases, more manufacturers are offering all-electric models alongside their petrol and diesel lineup. Some of the top electric vehicles on the market include the BMW i3 for drivers looking for a premium high-performance hatchback, the Audi e-tron SUV and the Mercedes-Benz EQC. Pure electric cars have no tailpipe emissions and plug-in hybrids have significantly lower emissions that petrol or diesel cars, so they’re increasingly offering a better investment for environmentally-conscious drivers.

In Summary...

Deciding whether it’s worth buying a diesel car is a growing dilemma for drivers, but it’s down to personal preference what fuel type you choose. At AMT Leasing, we’re committed to providing a quality service that’s tailored to you. If you’re looking for a new diesel, petrol or electric car, contact our dedicated team today on 0113 417 0155 to find your ideal match.  

Share