BUYER’S GUIDE: What to Know About Buying a Diesel Vehicle

Posted by


Most people in the US drive cars powered by gasoline, but that’s not your only option for fuel these days. There are also hybrids, electrics, and diesels, each of which offers benefits and drawbacks.

Although hybrids and electrics are new, diesels have been around for awhile. You might think this makes them more well-understood, but the reverse is true. A lot has changed over the years, and the diesel you buy today is very different from the diesel your parents bought years ago.

Here’s what you need to know about today’s diesel vehicles.

They’re Great for Towing

Most people associate diesel with trucks because that’s most of what’s out there, particularly in the US. Just because there are a lot of them doesn’t mean they’re the only option. You can find a diesel in everything from a super-duty truck to a sedan.

The reason so many big vehicles have diesel engines boils down to torque. Diesel provides higher torque at lower speeds, which is exactly when you need it most if you’re towing a trailer.

Drivers who are frequently towing love diesels since they make the work of towing easier. That heavy load won’t feel so heavy as you accelerate onto the highway if you have a diesel engine under the hood.

There are also find a greater variety of diesel options available for trucks and larger vehicles for this very reason. Your choices are somewhat limited if you’re looking at a car.

Looking for a new or used car? Check out BestRide’s listing search here.

Improved Fuel Efficiency

Many people opt for a diesel vehicle because of improved fuel efficiency. A diesel vehicle will get you between 20 and 40 percent better fuel economy than a gasoline-powered vehicle. This is a huge benefit for those who have lots of long distance travel.

It’s also great if you live someplace where gas prices are traditionally high or if you simply want to reduce the pain when gas prices rise. You’ll see the biggest benefit in fuel economy during highway driving where diesel engines excel making them a better choice for certain drivers.

If your daily driving includes a lot of stop and go traffic, then the improved fuel efficiency is not as dramatic. It will still be better than what you’ll get in a comparable gas-powered car, but the fuel economy increase will fall lower on that 20 to 40 percent scale than someone who spends all their time on the highway. It makes sense to look at a hybrid or electric vehicle if fuel efficiency is your top buying consideration.

The type of vehicle you’re considering will also affect your potential fuel savings. Just like with gasoline engines, a small sedan is more efficient than a large SUV. Crunch the numbers and make sure the savings you think you’re going to get actually materialize with the car you choose and how you drive.

Diesel nozzle

Diesel Fuel Costs More

The drawback to that improved fuel efficiency is that the fuel costs more in the first place. It can make figuring out if you’ll save money by buying a diesel a tricky task and very dependent on the type of driving you do and the vehicle you buy.

Those who fill up with premium gasoline in their current cars won’t face quite the same sticker shock since premium is a more expensive fuel, too. If, however, you tend to fill up with the least expensive gasoline available, then you’re going to see a big jump in how much it costs to fill that tank, even if you’re filling it less often.

Diesel Gas Isn’t Everywhere

Not every gas station has a diesel pump. This means you could face a little bit of a challenge finding a place to fuel up, especially if you’re someplace new where you don’t know all the local gas stations.

Roughly 55 percent of gas stations in the US currently offer diesel fuel. This number is improving, however, as diesel fuel becomes a more popular choice with American drivers. Still, you can’t expect to drive into any old gas station and find a diesel pump at the ready.

A little bit of planning makes it easy to undertake a road trip where you have no idea what kind of diesel options exist on your route. A great source of information is GasBuddy. It lets you search fueling stations for gasoline or diesel and it even gives you the current price so you can choose wisely and save some cash.

Looking for a new or used car? Check out BestRide’s listing search here.

No More Noisy Engines

Hand-in-hand with the idea that diesel engines are only for trucks is the idea that they’re horribly noisy. Everyone has had the experience of hearing a diesel that is loud and obnoxious when it drives away. There’s no mistaking the sound of a diesel engine, or is there?

Improvements to these engines over the years have led to diesels that are much quieter than you might expect. Sometimes you can’t even notice you’re in a diesel, with only a slightly louder engine sound when you press on the accelerator than you hear in a gasoline-powered vehicle. At idle, many are very quiet and won’t wake the neighbors when you turn on the car early in the morning.

Not only are the engines themselves quieter, but the methods for insulating the passenger area from that noise are better. The sound of the diesel is louder to someone outside of the car while passengers are immune to the additional noise.

Larger vehicles like heavy-duty trucks have the most noticeably louder engines, but even those aren’t as loud as they were in years past. Before you rule out a diesel vehicle solely because you think they’re too noisy, go drive one and see how much the technology has improved since you were a kid.

Golf diesel fill

Cleaner Than Ever

Along with the notion that diesels are noisy is the idea that they’re dirty and terrible for the environment, but diesel vehicles are required to meet the same emissions standards as gasoline vehicles. Emissions standards in the US are very high compared to other places in the world, which is part of the reason diesels haven’t taken over American roadways.

It took some time, but improved engines and exhaust systems along with ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel make it possible for today’s diesels to meet those standards.

The flip side is that although diesels meet emissions standards, they do still pollute the air. The particulates in diesel emissions are of concern because they contain carcinogens and nitrous oxides. Diesel is cleaner than it was, but it still pollutes.

If your focus is a car that is better for the environment, then you need to look at an electric or hybrid vehicle. These cars have significantly lower emissions and pose much less of a pollution hazard than both gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Looking for a new or used car? Check out BestRide’s listing search here.

Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin