Can you save with diesel?
It seems that British car-buyers prefer diesel: diesel-engined cars now account for a good half of all new cars sold in the UK, outselling petrol versions in recent months. This is not a huge surprise, since they typically return much better fuel economy than an equivalent petrol-powered vehicle. But will opting for diesel really save you money?
Besides giving more miles to the gallon, diesel cars typically emit less carbon dioxide, which means lower tax bandings for vehicle excise duty (annual road tax) and company car tax. A growing number of new diesel cars are eligible for tax bands A-D (cars emitting up to 130 g/km of carbon dioxide) and get their first year tax free – and for vehicles emitting less than 120g/km, an annual tax disc is then just £30 subsequently.
Though diesel cars can be more expensive to service and maintain – especially if they have complex fuel injection systems – they tend to have longer intervals between scheduled services.
And because of all the above advantages, diesel cars are desirable to cost-conscious secondhand buyers, so tend to hold their value better from new. This is especially true for larger family cars, big people-carriers and most 4x4s or SUVs, where using diesel really makes a difference to everyday running costs.
Yet it’s not all about cost. Although diesels once had a reputation for being noisy, sluggish and unexciting to drive, modern-day models are generally quick off the mark, refined and smooth. They typically offer much greater torque (pulling power) from lower engine revs, so are better-suited to towing duties, for example.
The drawbacks of diesel
Though diesels may be more efficient, diesel fuel itself is noticeably more expensive. Despite a recent small drop in the price of diesel and a rise in the cost of petrol, diesel was still an average 4.6p a litre dearer (at 141.5p a litre) than petrol (136.9p a litre) in May 2011.
Diesel cars are usually more expensive to buy than petrol models – new or second hand – although the premium asked has become a little smaller in recent years. Special offers and limited-edition versions specifically targeted at private buyers are often limited to entry-level petrol models, however, and if you want a car with an automatic gearbox, picking petrol will give you a wider choice.
While the latest state-of-the-art diesel models are clean-burning and often fitted with diesel particulate filters (DPFs) to trap harmful emissions, they will need regular long motorway runs to stop these from sooting-up: they’re not best-suited to a working life of short around-town journeys.
The issue of residual (resale) values is also less important if you’re buying an older second hand car which will have already lost the bulk of its value, or if you plan to keep your car long-term.
Ultimately, the decision will be down to your mileage, the type of driving you do and how you plan to use your car – for many low and average mileage motorists, petrol may remain the cheapest option.
There’s a number of petrol vs. diesel calculators available online, where you can input data on your mileage and your chosen car and compare the costs. In terms of the bigger motoring picture, it’s also worth researching other potential money-saving motoring matters online as well, such as car insurance and finance quotes.
Issued by Sainsbury’s Finance