RAC Cars News


Petrol vs Diesel

By raccars Published

Petrol Vs Diesel - Which Fuel Type Best Suits Your Driving Needs?

In 2015, UK motorists bought more than 1.5 million cars and yet only 6,366 more petrol vehicles than diesel ones. So how do we make sense of a question that splits the country almost straight down the middle?

It’s one of the most important questions to answer when purchasing a car, but so many of us aren’t exactly sure of the differences. Not least because diesel engines have improved immeasurably in recent years. What used to be obvious disparities in fuel economy and drivability have narrowed considerably, with massive investment in diesel technology being the major driving force.

However, the tables consistently seem to be turning and the major investments have recently been from companies towards petrol engine development, which resulted in the rise of the Ford EcoBoost engine, which is the smallest 1.0-litre and was even voted the “Best Engine Under 1.0-litre” for 4 years consecutively.

This means that cars in general are getting much better but your decision has become much harder. To assist, we here at RAC Cars have put together a comprehensive guide to help drivers across the land decide if they should buy a diesel or a petrol car.

What Are The Costs To Buy And Run?

Fuel gauge

Let’s forget fuel economy for a second and just focus on purchase price and tax. Diesel cars are generally more expensive off the forecourt, while petrol cars have higher tax premiums. However, the theory is that you are likely to spend less on diesel fuel over the course of ownership and many car finance deals factor this into the overall equation.

Certainly diesel engines are going through a revisory period in terms of emissions as we move towards 2020, so it’s worth keeping an eye on tax prices. For now, we know that in 2017 a flat tax rate is going to be introduced.

When that does happen, though, we should see purchase prices on diesel cars fall, meaning both engine types are likely to remain on an even keel in this category.

What Are The Driving Experiences Like?

Petrol cars are faster, smoother and do not clunk or gurgle like those old diesel tractors. A classic line for a different era. The truth is that today’s diesel cars are now recording throttle response times close to that of petrol engines. What’s just as interesting is that petrol powered cars are now coming onto our roads with the torque usually associated with diesels. This means more efficiency for petrol cars, sharper power for diesels and very little to choose between the two.

Fuel Economy

How long you have your car and where you drive it may have a big effect on whether fuel economy determines if you go petrol or diesel.

In terms of MPG, it’s all diesel cars populating the top of the most fuel-efficient lists. However, with a higher purchase price, it can take three years for fuel savings to compensate for how much you originally paid for the vehicle. So a short term diesel purchase doesn’t make much sense.

It’s also worth noting that the high cost of diesel in the UK is showing no signs of falling. Keep an eye on it with our RAC Fuel Watch.

Petrol Overview

Until recently, diesel was far more expensive to buy at the pumps than petrol, but business drivers tended to re-coup that additional outlay thanks to superior MPG figures. The gap has closed now as the UK’s refineries continue to focus on petrol production, although it’s hard to say how long that trend will continue.

Of course, sometimes the higher fuel price is worth it. A petrol-powered car, such as the Ford Fiesta 1.25-litre 82 Zetec 5DR offers instant throttle response compared to the more limited rev-range of a diesel car, such as the Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi Titanium 5DR, where there is more emphasis on torque. These injection benefits are most prevalent in tight urban areas, a place where acceleration and responsive steering are most at home. For that privilege, though, you will pay higher taxes, for now, and can expect a less-than-friendly receipt at the motorway service station.

Diesel Overview

Fuel guage

It’s no secret that nearly every van on the market is a diesel, such is the fuel price benefit for businesses eating up a lot of miles. The MPG is greater with diesels but remember that servicing is often more expensive.

In terms of driving, diesel cars develop maximum torque at lower engine revs which allows the driver to move up through the gears much quicker. This is ultra-efficient when a diesel engine is mated to an automatic gearbox. So you can expect better towing power than a petrol engine and cheaper tax.

Top Things to Consider

● Where will you be driving

● City driving lends better to petrol cars

● Diesel cars are better on the motorways

● Diesel cars are more expensive initially

● Petrol cars cost more to fuel

Still Undecided?

On RAC Cars we have thousands of approved dealers that are looking to help you find the car that best suits your driving needs, whether it’s a petrol or diesel model, and whether you are more of a city or motorway driver, we can help find the right used car.

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