Diesel car buying guide

Last updated November 30, 2021

Despite being initially presented as a more eco-friendly way to drive, diesel cars are now among some of the most demonised vehicles on the market. Tax hikes, parking surcharges and the future sales ban announcement has forced frugal diesel motorists onto the back foot, with new low emission zones tipped to deliver the knock-out blow.

So, what benefits can diesel cars offer motorists amid widespread uncertainty? Here’s everything you need to know if you’re wondering whether you should buy a diesel car.

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Should I buy a diesel car?

Whether you should buy a diesel car over a petrol, electric, or hybrid car is a complicated decision, and there’s no universal right answer. Here are some factors that you should consider when making your decision:

  • Diesel cars are generally more fuel efficient

    Diesel engines are, for the most part, more efficient than petrol models; particularly in heavy cars that need more energy to get moving. Diesel engines require less pressure on the accelerator and fewer engine revs – the less energy required, the more you'll save on fuel.

    If you have high annual mileage or tend to cover a lot of miles on the motorway, you may find that a diesel car is the best option for you. Despite the surge in taxes, diesel cars remain cheaper to run than petrol cars for high-mileage drivers. If you're clocking up over 12,000 miles a year, the outlay of a diesel car may be worth it as you might recoup this cash.

  • Consider diesel cars’ depreciation

    Diesel cars generally depreciate in value faster than petrol cars, and that’s especially been the case since 2017. As diesel cars become cheaper, however, they could offer better value-for-money for buyers despite the extra surcharges and taxes.

  • Diesel cars won’t necessarily incur emissions charges

    You can reduce the risk of being hit with inner-city diesel charges by buying a newer Euro 6-compliant diesel car. These vehicles are not subject to fees in London's ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ), or Birmingham's clean air zone. Similarly, cars that meet future emissions regulations (Real Driving Emissions Step 2, or Euro 6d) will be exempt from the recent road tax increases.

  • Suitable for large company cars

    The new car tax system reduced the long-held advantages of diesel cars. The company car tax system, on the other hand, maintains its links to CO2 emissions, so you could make savings if you opt for a diesel company car. Moreover, large diesel cars like SUVs are more fuel-efficient than their petrol equivalents and tend to attract lower company tax rates.

  • Suited for towing

    Like their suitability to powering heavy vehicles, diesel cars are also the optimal engine for towing. Their superior pulling power (torque) is more effective than electric or petrol cars at hauling heavy trailers and caravans. In contrast, petrol cars are more likely to stall when towing a trailer up a hill, and if they do make it, you'll have to foot a much higher bill than you would with a diesel model.

  • Choosing new vs used

    All brand-new diesel cars should comply with the Euro 6 limits, and there are no plans to charge owners of these vehicles for driving in city centres in the next few years. However, diesel cars that only meet the previous Euro 5 emissions standard or below, such as some used cars from before 2015, are subject to the emissions charges in London. Bear in mind that other major cities may also charge these cars for driving within central clean air zones in the near future.

  • Look into Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) plans

    One way of protecting yourself against diesel’s uncertain future is by taking out a PCP finance plan. PCP agreements give you two choices that counterbalance the risk of depreciation. Firstly, they allow you to keep your car at the end of the contract by paying a pre-agreed lump sum. Alternatively, you can hand over the car at the end of the contract with nothing more to pay - regardless of whether it has depreciated quicker than expected.

  • Diesel Particulate Filters

    The diesel particulate filter (DPF) is the most important component of most diesel engines, as well as the most likely cause of any problems. If you tend to drive in city centre stop-start traffic, your car won’t have the chance to get hot enough to burn off soot that gathers, causing the DPF to become clogged.

    A blocked DPF is expensive to clean and even more expensive to replace. Therefore, if you mainly drive around town, a diesel car may not be the best choice for you.

The future of diesel cars

The sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned as early as 2030, along with most hybrid cars that use current technology. This is part of a £3 billion plan to tackle air pollution in the UK. While this policy sounds radical, the aftermath might not be as impactful as first thought.

Motor industry experts predict that in two decades, most cars sold will be either enhanced hybrid cars exempt from the ban, electric, or potentially hydrogen-powered. At the time of writing, there are no plans to ban diesel cars from the roads altogether, and second-hand sales may continue unaffected.

Selling your diesel car

If you’re looking to sell your diesel car, you can avoid the hassle of a private sale and sell in under an hour with webuyanycar. Simply get a free valuation in less than 30 seconds and book an appointment at one of our 475+ UK branches.