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Vince’s Verdict … Should I Steer Clear of Diesel to fuel my next car?

Vince’s Verdict … Should I Steer Clear of Diesel to fuel my next car?

For years motorists were encouraged to buy diesel cars as these were better for the environment due to lower Co2 emissions.  Now, the tides have swiftly turned and diesel cars are the ones being subjected to extra tax due to a higher level of Nox than petrol equivalents.  This change of opinion by the Government has led to confusion for drivers who are trying to be environmentally aware, but also need the higher mpg diesel cars offer.

This month our Chief Operating Officer Vince has been looking beyond the headlines, to the emissions facts to try and help customers make a reasoned decision about the fuel type that will be best for them.

“The effect of environmental messages about diesel cars has been huge.  10 years ago, diesel drivers were the ones doing their best to reduce air pollution.  Diesel cars produced substantially lower Co2 emissions than petrol versions, and provided real value for money for those who travelled high numbers of miles every year as the number of miles per gallon that can be achieved is higher in a diesel car in comparison to petrol.  To support the use of diesel cars the Government provided certain financial benefits such as a much lower charge for road tax compared to the charge on an equivalent petrol vehicle. 

"... diesel cars should attract less vehicle tax than their petrol equivalents because of their better Co2 performance." - Gordon Brown in 1998 when Chancellor of the Exchequer

This previous positive image has been replaced by the complete opposite.  Diesel drivers are becoming as socially shunned as smokers or drink drivers, there is no end of negativity associated with this once praised fuel and those who use it.  In the near future diesel drivers face a 1% rise in company car tax cost and increasing road tax charges.  The clean air zone in London, which is currently the T-Charge penalises all drivers of diesel vehicles that do not meet Euro 4 emissions standards.  When the T-Charge is replaced with the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone  all diesel cars that do not meet Euro 6 emissions standards will be penalised.  There are reports that some councils have taken it upon themselves to discourage the use of diesel cars in their regions.  For example, Islington council has announced that at the beginning of 2018 an extra £2 charge will apply to any diesel vehicle parking in the borough regardless of age. 

Read more : What is the London T-Charge?

This sudden shift in attitude has left motorists confused about how to do the best for the environment and still get value for money with their car.  A 17.1% drop in registrations of new diesel vehicles was recorded during 2017.  It is my opinion that this drop reflects public attitude rather than reflecting the true diesel picture. 

Which fuel should I choose?

I was recently at a Directors Dinner with Ford Motor Company and I asked a senior member there what advice he would give to those confused about fuel.  The advice he gave, is the advice I would give myself.  The right fuel for you depends on where you live, where you are travelling everyday and how many miles you cover in a year.  A rough guide is as follows;

  • If you live inside the M25 you will benefit from having an electric or hybrid vehicle.  This will help you avoid any clean air zone charges that, when the Ultra Low Emissions Zone begins in April 2019, will apply every day of the year including weekends.
  • If you live on the outskirts of London but travel in occasionally and have low mileage over the course of a year a petrol vehicle is likely to be the best option for you.
  • If you live on the outskirts of London and travel in occasionally, but have high mileage motorway driving over the course of a year around 20,000 miles the higher miles per gallon a diesel will offer you is likely to provide you with the best value.
  • If you travel few miles a year, and only do short journeys, it is likely diesel is not the fuel type for you.  This is because all new diesel cars have a diesel particulate filter which relies on a longer, higher speed journey to clear itself.        

Even so, many drivers will still choose petrol over diesel purely due to diesels current image problem.  The problem with Nox in diesel emissions has been known for some time.  The most current Euro 6 emissions standards have been the toughest yet for diesel engines and manufacturers have worked hard to make sure their vehicles meet these standards. 

Read more : What are the Benefits of Euro 6?

Taking a look at the Euro 6 emissions limits shows that modern diesel cars are the cleanest these have ever been and emission levels for Nox are the closest to petrol standards these have ever been, while still retaining a lower limit for Co2 emissions than petrol engines.   

To take this example further I have compared side by side a diesel engine and petrol equivalent, in this case a Ford Kuga.

Ford Kuga Diesel Estate 2.0 TDCi Titanium 5dr 2WD Ford Kuga Estate 1.5 EcoBoost 120 Zetec  5dr 2WD 
£221.63 inc. VAT per month £294.75 inc.VAT per month
36 month contract length 36 month contract length  
8,000 miles per year  8,000 miles per year 
Customer maintained  Customer maintained 
6 months initial rental at £1329.78 inc. VAT p/m 6 months initial rental at £1768.50 inc. VAT p/m  
66.10 mpg (combined)  45.60 mpg (combined) 
122 g/km Co2   145g/km Co2 
0.066g/km Nox  0.058g/km Nox 

It can be seen the diesel engine does produce slightly more Nox than the petrol engine, but levels are still well within the limit to comply with Euro 6.  The other figures show much less Co2 being emitted from the diesel engine and many more miles per gallon being achieved in the diesel engine.  When considering all three of these variables, is the petrol version really the one that is better all round for the environment?

Cost petrol v diesel

In the Kuga example, a difference in price can be seen.  The diesel version will also cost an individual less to lease than the petrol version.  The diesel Kuga shown is a car on a special offer at the moment and is of a higher trim level than the petrol version.  So, you are getting a higher spec diesel car for less money than the lower spec petrol version.

View Our Current Leasing Deals

I believe there will be many diesel deals around in the near future and let me explain why.  I have been lucky enough to tour around both a Mercedes-Benz and a Vauxhall factory.  In both of these cases the parts needed to build a car are ordered many, many months if not years in advance so everything is waiting ready and production is not delayed.  For years now, the demand for diesel has outweighed the demand for petrol.  Because of this manufacturers ordered in more diesel parts.  The sudden change to higher demand for petrol vehicles has left manufacturers with diesel engines they still need to sell.  If demand is dropping for these diesel cars, the price will soon follow, meaning excellent deals for those who are still brave enough to drive a diesel car.

Concerns over the risk of owning a diesel vehicle

I was chatting with a senior member of an insurance company in the pub and he asked me which car he should get.  He had high mileage and occasionally ventured inside the M25 for work.  I told him diesel would suit his purpose the best.  His concern was the risk in the future of owning a diesel vehicle and the possibility of being left with a car with a value that had depreciated at a far too alarming rate. 

These concerns are understandable as the ending in the story for diesel engines looks unhappy right now.  For anyone else feeling the same way there are ways to protect yourself against risk while enjoying the benefits of a diesel car. 

Firstly, I personally would not make a cash purchase on a diesel car at the moment or enter into a Hire Purchase agreement as you will be left owning the car.  There two ways to reduce the risk of driving a diesel car in these uncertain times;

  • On a Personal Contract Purchase agreement.  In this type of agreement, you have the safety net of a guaranteed future value being set at the beginning of the agreement, so if the value of your car has plummeted and you are no longer interested in owning it, you can hand it back with a guaranteed value. 
  • On a Contract Hire agreement.  This is the most favourable way I can see.  There are no uncertainties here, you will be paying an agreed monthly rental for the period of your agreement and handing the car back at the end.  The way the value of the vehicle changes is of no concern to you."

If you are unsure about which vehicle you should be driving next, give us a call. The Rivervale team are always happy to talk through your options with you.

Has the way you view diesel cars and those that drive them changed recently? Or are you confused about the fuel type you should choose for your next vehicle?

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The comments above do not necessarily reflect Rivervale's views unless clearly stated.

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