Gas Vs Diesel Power

In a time of unstable fuel prices, the auto market is demanding an alternative to standard gasoline engines. So the BuyingAdvice Team decided to settle the age old debate: Gas Vs Diesel Power. Sure, newer technologies like hybrids and ethanol have become fashionable, but diesel is a much more mature technology, almost as old as the internal combustion engine itself. We found that if it’s fuel efficiency you’re after, diesel just might be right for you.

“But,” you say, “diesel is more expensive than gasoline.” That’s true; as of February 21st, it’s about 37 cents higher per gallon than regular gasoline – and diesel motors are more expensive up front. But we have found that diesel’s overall fuel efficiency and durability make it a good investment.

To find out how diesel stacks up against gas, we decided to pit the Volkswagen Jetta 2.5, which runs on gasoline, against the diesel-powered Jetta TDI. The 2.5 starts at $20,075, MSRP, and comes with a 2.5 liter, five-cylinder engine, with 170 horsepower. The TDI, at a starting MSRP of $22,775, is equipped with a 2.0 liter, four-cylinder engine that runs at 140 hp. Both models come standard with a manual transmission.

According to Environmental Protection Agency estimates, the 2.5 gets 23 mpg city, while the TDI gets 30. As for highway mileage, the 2.5 gets 33 mpg and the TDI gets 42. Assuming you drive in the city 55 percent of the time and travel the highway 45 percent of the time, you’ll get around nine more miles per gallon with the TDI. In addition, the diesel wins for long trips. The 2.5 can only travel 339 miles per tank, while the TDI can go a whopping 444 miles.

So how does that factor into your gas budget? While it will cost you around $5.48 more to fill up the TDI, you’ll still save over $300 in fuel per year, assuming you drive 15,000 miles.

But to get any real savings, you have to stay for the long term. It will take a little over six years to make up for the TDI’s higher price tag, assuming current gas prices. But fortunately, diesels are great long-term vehicles. It is not unusual to see a diesel last for 400,000 miles or more. You also won’t have to worry about maintaining an electrical starter system and diesel gas is less corrosive, so your exhaust system will last longer.

Diesels also fare well against hybrids. USA TODAY reporter David Kiley drove a Volkswagen Jetta TDI from Detroit to Washington, D.C.; then took a Toyota Prius for the return trip. He found that the Jetta beat the Prius in fuel efficiency and reported that the Jetta finished the trip on one tank of fuel, while the Prius couldn’t.

Of course, there are other drawbacks to diesels other than their higher initial cost. One is their relative obscurity. If you’re looking for an affordable diesel powered car, you’re pretty much stuck with Volkswagen. The Jeep Liberty is offered in a diesel model, as are many larger trucks, but automakers have historically steered clear of diesel.

Why? Diesel is traditionally dirtier and louder than gasoline, in addition to being more expensive. Diesel’s notorious filthiness has caused light-duty diesel vehicle sales to be prohibited in California, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont. However, technological advances have made diesel more attractive. For instance, the Jetta TDI is fairly quiet and the noxious diesel smell is negligible.

Not only have the engines improved, but so has the fuel. Thanks to a government mandate, cleaner, low-sulfur fuel is at your local gas station. The new lower fuel will cut emissions by about ten percent, but will raise the price by about four to five cents a gallon.

Diesel might be an old technology, but it has a bright future. The Department of Energy estimates that if 30 percent of the passenger cars and light duty trucks in the U.S. ran on diesel, oil imports would be reduced by 350,000 barrels a day. That in itself makes diesel a viable alternative, and if you want a reliable, fuel efficient vehicle, diesel is where it’s at.


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