Buying a Diesel Car? 9 Possible Drawbacks
For decades, European auto aficionados, manufacturers and owners have touted the environmental and economic benefits of fuel-efficient diesel cars. This passionate commitment helps explain why up to 50% of the cars sold in Europe feature diesel engines.
Diesel cars can be a sound investment. The engines are strong, durable and long lasting, and many log 200,000 miles or more. They also produce roughly 33% more energy for every gallon of fuel burned, which under the right driving conditions can translate into significant fuel savings. Diesel vehicles tend to better hold their value, which can translate into hundreds and sometimes thousands of additional dollars at resale.
In spite of these benefits, diesel cars account for less than 5% of the cars on American roads. Why?
- Purchase price. The average diesel car may cost several thousand dollars more than a comparable model with a traditional combustion engine.
- Fuel cost. On a per gallon basis, diesel costs about 10% more than gasoline. While the higher cost is tempered by the fact diesel engines are roughly 30% more fuel efficient than their combustion cousins, many drivers focus on pump prices not performance.
- Fuel availability. Diesel fuel isn’t available at every gas station, so drivers must plan ahead and refill long before the indicator hits “E.”
- Fuel taxes. Federal taxes on diesel fuels are about 25% higher than gasoline and the same is often true at the state level. Higher taxes offset some of the potential savings associated with diesel fuel.
- Acceleration. Americans tend to appreciate speedy, responsive cars with rapid acceleration rates. Diesel engines deliver plenty of power, but because it builds slowly fast accelerations are more difficult to achieve.
- Noise. Manufacturers have made significant progress on this front, but diesel engines still tend to be slightly noisier than their gas-fueled counterparts.
- Emissions. Long before strict emission standards were a gleam in the government’s eye, diesel engines were viewed as dirty and smelly. While manufacturers have made strides in reducing emissions, diesels typically produce higher levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
- Car wars. In the car technology wars, eco-minded Americans are opting for hybrids, the sales of which have increased roughly 33% compared to 24% for diesels.
- Fewer options. Because only a handful of models exist, diesels struggle to compete with the wide variety of hybrid and gas-powered cars, SUVs, trucks and vans available.
In 2014, analysts predicted diesel sales would corner 10% of the American auto market by 2020. Diesel sales drove into a ditch in 2015, when tests revealed that Volkswagen installed software on diesels to circumvent America’s stricter emissions standards. The road ahead is likely to be bumpy as diesel manufacturers try to keep the trust of American car buyers.