How To Decide On A Petrol, Diesel Or Electric Vehicle

Last Updated: 10/04/2021

When you’re in the market for a new car there are a lot of different options, considerations and questions to ask.

One of those questions related to the fuel type of any potential car purchase.

The argument over which fuel is the best choice has probably never been more prominent.

The media will give you one side of an argument, an experienced driver another and then an environmental campaigner another.

Add in the views of friends and family and your head will almost certainly be spinning.

So, where to start when making this decision?

We’re going to try and tell you a little bit about each fuel type and will cover the all-important topics around each, including environmental impact, cost, availability and other key things to consider, however, the below video provides some great insight into the difference between petrol and diesel cars, and how electric cars are starting to change our perceptions:

Petrol Vehicles

Fuel Cost:

Petrol is fairly cheap to buy and so it’s nice and easy to fill your tank up.

That said, you need to be mindful that even though it’s cheap, your engine size, make and model of car and also your driving style all impacts your consumption.

So, while it is cheap to buy, you may be buying more of it than you need to which is going to impact that cost.

In fact, for your average Ford Fiesta, you’re likely to pay around £200 a year more for petrol than you would for diesel.

Environmental Impact:

There is no way to hide away from the fact that petrol engines are bad for the environment.

They pump out harmful greenhouse gases which have been attributed to global warming and health problems.

They also exhume carbon dioxide, more so than diesel cars.

Availability:

Petrol is readily available at just about every single fuel station in the UK, unless they are waiting on a delivery that is!

Petrol stations will usually have numerous petrol pumps available and even offer a premium and a high-grade version, so availability is certainly not a problem.

Other Considerations:

Something else to consider about petrol cars is that they generally depreciate in value quicker than both diesel and electric cars.

This is because they are so widely available while older petrol engine cars are ‘dirtier’ than the more modern ones, meaning higher tax as well.

Diesel Vehicles

Fuel Cost:

Diesel is more expensive to buy, however, diesel cars have a much better fuel consumption than the petrol counterparts.

As mentioned above, this is likely to translate in to cheaper running costs over the long-term.

Environmental Impact:

You can’t have escaped the publicity that diesel engines have been given in the media over the past couple of years.

While they were previously favoured by some due to not producing harmful greenhouse gases, they are now the subject of much criticism due to the other environmental impacts.

Diesels produce more nitrous oxide and hydrocarbons than petrol engines, both of which are dangerous and have been attributed to driving up local air pollution levels.

Availability:

Diesel is pretty easy to come by and is just about as widely available as petrol.

Every major filling station will have diesel available to purchase.

Other Considerations:

Diesel cars are going to be more expensive to purchase than petrol ones.

This is mainly driven by availability – there are simply more petrol cars available, however, as you will see if you check the used car market, they generally hold their value pretty well.

Despite concerns about the environment, they remain incredibly popular in the UK and so predictions of the imminent demise of diesel cars may be somewhat off the mark.

Other factors to consider are fuel efficiency.

Diesels have long been favoured by sales reps, for example, who spend large proportions of time driving significant distances up and down the nation’s roads, however, if you’re more of a city driver, diesels are probably not a great option for those short, stop-start commutes for the same reason.

Electric Vehicles

Cost:

Electricity is pretty cheap to come by, however, the cars themselves are going to be knock you back a fair few pounds.

If you can afford the initial outlay, then the cost of running an electric car is certainly favourable.

In fact, you can completely charge some electric cars from just £3, which is staggeringly cheap.

Environmental impact:

Green campaigns are all for electric cars, and it’s hardly surprising why.

They have zero emissions.

This also leads to savings on the financial point of view as the lack of emissions means they are exempt from road tax, congestion charges and fuel tax.

If your electric car costs in excess of £40,000, you will still have to pay some road tax.

Availability:

The availability of charging points is improving all the time but it’s still a consideration if you’re buying electric cars.

If you’re driving long distances, you will have to plan your journeys with electric charging points along the way.

Companies such as Tesla have really helped to push the roll-out of electric car charging points.

Other Considerations:

If you’re going to be driving long distances in your car, then you really need to evaluate whether an electric car will be right for you.

Petrol stations can be found just about everywhere, including in rural areas, however, charging points are much harder to find.

You will probably need a minimum of 30 minutes to charge the car up as well, and that’s using a rapid charging point which are even harder to find than a normal charging point!

Something else in favour of electric cars is the running costs.

Because there is only one moving part – the motor – there is less to go wrong on electric cars.

Maintenance can be as much as 35% cheaper than standard petrol engine cars.

Conclusion

You could sit and argue about fuel types all day long and still be no clearer in your own mind by the end of the day.

The logical answer will always be the one that works best for you.

You need to consider the distance you will be driving, the type of roads that you will be driving along (i.e. inner-city, motorways or rural roads), the type of car you want to buy and even if you have an opinion on whether you want to pollute the environment and if so, what with (see points relating to diesel and petrol).

One option we haven’t gone in to in detail here is the hybrid car.

These are available from several manufacturers and in varying types but a Toyota Prius is a great example.

These can help strike a balance between electric and petrol although you will need to research the trade-offs for doing so.

The best thing to do is to consider your own requirements and then make a decision based upon those.