It used to be so simple: most cars had petrol engines, most vans and lorries used diesel. Now we’ve got a range of power sources to consider when choosing new vehicles. It makes the decisions for fleet operators and business drivers much harder.
To help you choose between the main fuels now available, here’s our handy guide to the pros and cons of each:
Biggest infrastructure, with more petrol fuel pumps
Best driving enjoyment, thanks to the high-revving, responsive engines producing exciting sound
The cheapest to buy
Petrol vehicles depreciate the fastest
Contains carcinogens such as benzene. Burning petrol produces dangerous greenhouse gases
The price of petrol is volatile
Oil is a finite resource
Petrol is a dangerous substance to store and handle
Lower lifetime cost than petrol because of lower depreciation
Engines last longer and tolerate much higher mileages than petrol
More efficient (by around 25% compared to petrol) so fuel costs are less, providing pump prices stay close. Diesel’s better mpg becomes more pronounced over long distance journeys. Some diesels can even be more fuel-efficient than a petrol hybrid
Produce less CO2, so road tax is lower than petrol
Higher torque or pulling power means mid-range acceleration of larger diesel cars is often better than sports cars. This pulling power is why diesel is used for commercial vehicles: it can pull much greater loads than any other option here
More expensive than petrol to buy (historically)
Produce nitrous oxides, hydrocarbons and particulates, so not necessarily greener than petrol
Insurance is higher for diesels than petrols, by up to 15% - because they cost more to replace or repair
Engines generally require a little less routine servicing but if they do go wrong, repair costs are higher. Latest figures show diesel engines are slightly less reliable than petrol
Volatile fuel price
Oil is a finite resource
Much cleaner and more fuel efficient, especially in urban motoring
Resale values high
Low tax bills and congestion charges
The conventional engine means there are no range limits
Generally much more expensive than petrol vehicles to buy
Maintenance may require specialist skills. Batteries expensive to replace
Hybrids emit more emissions than a pure electric vehicle
Plug-in hybrids need a dedicated charging infrastructure and take hours to recharge
Engines are generally smaller, so produce less pulling power for larger loads
Minimal noise pollution and a quiet travelling experience
Zero road tax and congestion charging
Presents a green image
High residual value
Expensive to buy
Extensive time to recharge
Scarcity of recharging points
Electricity is usually generated by fossil fuel power stations so in essence defeats the purpose of ‘going green’
Danger to pedestrians of silent approach
As we can see here, there are many pros and cons of running a fleet of vehicles with any one of these fuel types. Ultimately the decision of which fuel type, and which type of vehicle is chosen is up to each individual business, based upon the type of travel they do. Hopefully our quick guide has given you some insight into the positives and negatives of each fuel type which will help you to make your own decisions.
Take a look at our frequently asked questions about diesel, petrol, hybrid and electric fuel. Contact us if you have more questions. We are here to answer your queries!
Should I buy a diesel car?
Diesel cars are more fuel-efficient than petrol vehicles, especially out of town on long journeys. The biggest disadvantage is that diesel cars are usually more expensive than petrol cards. Also, diesel fuel prices are higher than petrol in the UK. So our suggestion, if you regularly travel long distances, then diesel may be the better choice. However, petrol cars tend to be more suited to enthusiasts city drivers who usually travel short distances.
How do hybrid cars work?
Hybrid vehicles are a combination of petrol/diesel cars and electric cars. Hybrid cars contain parts of both petrol and electric vehicles: an internal combustion engine - so it can fuelled with petrol or diesel, and have an electric motor and battery so can be powered by electricity.
How do electric cars work?
Electric cars are powered by rechargeable batteries installed inside the car. An electric car looks basically the same like other normal vehicles, except that it lacks an exhaust system.
Where can I charge electric cars?
There are more than 1,500 public charging points and that number is growing very fast. Find more information about charging points: charging points.