Which Car Will Save You the Most Money: Petrol, Diesel, Hybrid or Electric?
When buying a new vehicle, it’s important to consider what fuel it runs on. Your car’s fuel consumption not only affects its performance but also your spending and saving habits.
Here’s a comparison of petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric cars to guide you in selecting the most cost-efficient vehicle.
Amidst talks of petrol-powered cars getting phased out by the next decade, there remains plenty of cars that run on petrol (a.k.a. gasoline).
In Australia where carbon emissions are record high, groups like the National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) have been actively calling for a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by as early as 2025. Nonetheless, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that petrol remains the predominant type of fuel consumed for the 12 months ending 30 June 2018. Out of the 34,170 megalitres of fuel used within this period, 51.4% was petrol.
- Affordable. Petrol-powered vehicles typically have the lowest upfront cost compared to other types. The parts of these cars are also cheaper, which means that the repairs are not as costly as with other vehicles.
- Cheap and easy to refuel. Although there’s a spike in the price of petrol since March, it still remains cheaper than diesel fuel per litre. Also, you can easily find a gas station for refuelling. It only takes a few minutes to refuel gasoline, which is very beneficial if you’re in a hurry and mostly driving in the city with a lot of short rides.
- Smooth engine. Petrol engines are more refined and less noisy compared to diesel-powered vehicles. They are also easier to maintain with more affordable parts. Moreover, they can start even after long intervals unlike diesels which need service if not operated for few weeks.
- Poor fuel economy. The engines of petrol cars consume more fuel per mile than diesel engines.
- Fast depreciation. Because petrol is less fuel efficient, it causes more wear-and-tear to the engine, losing its value quickly. This, in turn, negatively affects the car’s resale value.
- Pollution. Petrol engines emit high levels of carbon dioxide, which is a climate pollutant and the main cause of global warming.
Diesel is made of hydrocarbon molecules that are larger than in petrol, causing it to produce more energy on combustion. Because they use less fuel, diesel-powered cars used to be the environment-friendly alternative of petrol vehicles.
This was before it was discovered that many diesel cars weren’t actually as environmentally-friendly as first thought. And then there's the issue of toxic emission, which is harmful to humans. You could be saving money on diesel fuel, but paying more in hospital bills.
- More fuel-efficient than petrol. Diesel fuel produces more energy on combustion and uses 15-20% less fuel per mile. This is especially beneficial if you drive over long distances.
- Fewer repairs. Diesel engines are generally sturdier and more reliable than petrol-powered ones, which translates into fewer visits to the repair shop.
- More environment-friendly than petrol. Compared to petrol cars, diesel-powered vehicles emit lower levels of carbon dioxide.
- More expensive to buy and maintain. Diesel vehicles are priced higher than those that run on gasoline. They are also more expensive to insure. And while they break down less often than petrol cars, they cost more in repair mainly because of their more expensive engines. Diesel fuel is also pricier and not as readily available as gasoline.
- Filter issues. While diesel cars are best for long driving at motorway speeds, they are not recommended for short-distance city drives. Apart from higher fuel consumption, they have a diesel particulate filter (DPF), which is designed to collect the soot that is formed when diesel is burned, preventing harmful particles from being pumped out into the air. However, the soot needs to be burned at a high enough temperature (around a period of more than 15 minutes at a consistent speed in excess of 40mph) to turn it into smaller ash particles. If this is not attained, the soot clogs and damages the engine, causing hefty repair bills.
- Toxic emissions. Several scientific studies have claimed that diesel fumes produce nitric oxide that triggers respiratory reflexes and worsens underlying lung conditions like asthma. They also produce fine particulate matter (PM) that can cause cancer.
Hybrids are vehicles that run on traditional petrol or diesel internal combustion engines and an electric motor with a battery pack. Their origin can be traced back to 1899 when Ferdinand Porsche invented the first commercial hybrid engine. It was not until 1997, however, when the first mass-produced hybrid car was introduced: Toyota Prius.
A hybrid car uses gasoline as its primary source of power. The petrol engine is at work during normal driving and powers the generator, which produces electricity that is stored in the batteries for later use. At low speeds of up to 15mph, the vehicle uses only the electric motor for power. When the car needs a heavy acceleration, both the petrol engine and electric motor work together to increase power to the wheels. The engine and motor turn off as the car reaches a complete stop then switches to battery power to run everything that it needs to.
- Environment-friendly. While not 100% emission-free, hybrids are much cleaner than petrol and diesel because they’re partly powered by electricity and have better gas mileage.
- Government incentives. In Australia, hybrid cars enjoy tax breaks and fuel consumption tax that provides bonuses to passenger cars with low carbon dioxide output.
- High resale value. Since hybrid cars have advanced technology and have the appeal of being fuel efficient, they attract many buyers. They can still be sold at a premium price even as a second-hand vehicle.
- Expensive. Hybrid cars are more expensive than regular petrol- and diesel-powered automobiles because they are more costly to build. The average price difference between a hybrid and gas-powered automobile is around $4,500.
- Not meant for long drives. The combined power of both gas and electricity is often less than that of a full gas-powered engine. Hybrids are not designed for speed and acceleration and, thus, are not suitable for long-distance driving.
- Higher maintenance costs. Since the engine and other parts of hybrid vehicles are sophisticated, they are not readily accessible. Repairs can be costly. Also, the continuous improvement in their technology makes it difficult to find a mechanic with the right expertise.
Said to be the future of automobiles, electric cars have come a long way from its first conception in 1834 with the small-scale electrical car invented by Professor Sibrandus Stratingh.
Although several electric vehicles (EVs) have been marketed since that time, it was only in 2008 when the first all-electric car that can travel more than 200 miles on a single charge was introduced: Tesla Roadster. This achievement has revolutionised the electric vehicle industry.
In Australia at present, there is a growing demand for electric vehicles. However, the total purchase has remained minuscule by international standards with only one in 500 new cars estimated to be electric.
- Energy-efficient. Electric cars are far more efficient than conventional gas-powered vehicles. Their batteries convert 59 to 62% of energy into vehicle movement while gas-powered cars can only convert between 17 and 21%.
- Zero emissions. Since EVs don’t burn any fuel, they don’t produce emissions. Thus, they are the most environment-friendly car option.
- Great tax incentives. EVs are exempted from the fuel consumption tax upon the first registration and from the monthly vehicle tax.
- Expensive. Nissan Leaf, the cheapest electric car to date, costs around $29,990 while the price of the most expensive EV, Tesla Model X, starts at $90,700. The additional costs can also add up fast and overwhelm the average driver. These include insurance, general maintenance, charging station purchase, installation and maintenance; electricity bills, battery replacement, public charging station fees, and technology updates (hardware, software, and firmware). Also, replacing an electric car battery can be prohibitively expensive at around $5,000.
- Not enough charging stations. Despite plans to build more charging stations for electric vehicles, there are still not enough charging stations for EV drivers. This can be problematic when travelling long distances far from home. Charging also takes time with at least 30 minutes at a rapid charging station.
- Lifestyle-constraint. Because EVs currently have issues that still need to be resolved, such as battery life, driving range and functionality, it may not be suitable for everyone. At present, it only works best for urbanites who drive short distances and don’t have a lot of kids to drive up and down highways.
Hybrids and electric cars may be the future of the automobile, but if they don’t suit your lifestyle, you could be spending more on fuel than you are making. Consider your lifestyle and financial position first before rushing down to buy the car you want.
Want your very own car but can’t afford to pay in cash? At Positive Lending Solutions, we can help you get the car of your dreams at a price you can afford. Request a Quick Quote or call 1300 722 210 to talk to one of our car loan specialists about your financing options.