Because fuel economy has become one of the most important qualities for car shoppers, diesel-powered vehicles are an intriguing, slowly-emerging option. Although diesel vehicles only accounted for about 3% of total U.S. vehicle sales in 2018, they were up 11.6% versus 2017. Consequently, some consumers are starting to ask themselves whether a diesel engine, known primarily for its fuel efficiency, makes more sense for them versus a traditional gasoline engine.
As is usually the case with decisions like these, diesel cars have both pros and cons to consider in the car-buying process - follow along as we dive into their benefits and drawbacks.
Pro: Diesel Fuel Yields Higher Gas Mileage
Arguably the most appealing quality of diesel engines is that they’re more-fuel efficient compared to their similar-sized gasoline engine counterparts. Between their superior efficiency and the fact that diesel fuel contains 10% to 15% more energy than gasoline, diesel engines can go 20% to 35% further on a gallon of fuel than comparable gasoline engines.
Drivers who routinely rack up significant number of highway miles might find that the added efficiency of a diesel engine makes it a better option than a gasoline engine, but it’s also important to consider the costs.
Con: Diesel Vehicles and Fuel Typically Cost More Money
Improved efficiency comes at a price: Diesel vehicles generally cost hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars more than their gasoline equivalents. Additionally, diesel fuel costs are also usually higher than traditional gasoline.
However, depending on how frequently you drive, the fuel efficiency of a diesel vehicle may ultimately save you money over the course of its life, which could be quite some time.
Pro: Diesel Engines Are Known for Reliability and Longevity
Because they run at lower revolutions per minute (RPM), diesel engines wear down more slowly than gasoline engines. They’re also built tougher with thicker cylinder walls and sturdier parts, including the valves, pistons and crankshaft.
As a result, diesel vehicles are known to last longer than gasoline vehicles. However, these enhancements require added complexities that open the door for more regular maintenance.
Con: Diesel Vehicles Have More Frequent Service Intervals
You’ll likely need more routine, and sometimes more costly, maintenance with a diesel vehicle as opposed to a gasoline vehicle. Diesel engines’ aforementioned complexities require you to perform common tasks, such as filter changes, fluid flushes and part replacements, more often. Of course, being on top of these intervals will only help strengthen the vehicle’s longevity.
Pro: Diesel Engines Generate More Towing Power
By generating greater torque at a lower RPM, a diesel engine can tow heavy loads up steep grades while placing less strain on itself and consuming less fuel. However, depending on what you plan on towing, you may need to purchase special equipment to accommodate your load.
TL;DR: Should I Buy a Diesel Vehicle?
Those of you who log high numbers of highway miles on a regular basis or need to tow heavy loads through uneven areas might find that a diesel vehicle is a better fit for you than a regular gasoline vehicle. However, those of you who typically drive city miles or don’t drive regularly in general will probably be better off with a gasoline, hybrid or electric vehicle.