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Should you buy a diesel car in Australia?

Considering diesel cars have been the most affected by the global Volkswagen scandal, this particular type of fuel might not be right to buy. However, assuming other diesel cars in Australia are fine, there are many pros and cons for making the switch.

Diesel cars more prominent than ever

Not too long ago, diesel cars were common in Australia, especially for the casual urban consumer looking for a small passenger vehicle. Then the price gap between petrol and diesel narrowed, reported CarsGuide at the time, and more brands began to make passenger vehicles with diesel engines.

The Hyundai Accent and Skoda Octavia were compact and powerful, and came in at less than $30,000 each. Plus, the Hyundai i30, Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Golf were also incredibly popular (though the latter-most of which is now embroiled in the unfortunate VW debacle).

Indeed, the Australian Bureau of Statistics states in its data that between 2010-15, the number of diesel passenger vehicles on our roads rose an astounding 96.4 per cent.

However, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries noted this year that the figures have slowed, dropping around 35 per cent.

Consider the pros of diesels

One of the biggest pros of purchasing a diesel passenger car is fuel economy.

The National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) performed a survey and found that petrol cars couldn’t drive as far on a single tank of fuel when compared with diesel engines. It tested four of the latter cars with their petrol counterparts.

“On average, the four diesel models tested consumed 20 per cent less fuel than their petrol counterparts,” said then-NRMA president Wendy Machin. The highest number they saw was 33 per cent less fuel, from the Holden Epica.

Another bonus is that often diesel prices are lower than petrol, however this largely depends on the fuel station operator. Granted, the prices have been similar recently, but based on stats from the 12 weeks prior to Nov. 22, diesel was, on average, slightly lower.

Studies have also found that diesel cars put out less carbon dioxide. New Zealand’s AA confirms this, stating that petrol engines also put out more nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide.

Weighing the cons

There are drawbacks, however, meaning it’s not necessarily a simple decision to choose between fuel types.

“In some cases diesel models don’t generate as much power so motorists should make sure they are happy with the vehicle’s characteristics,” Ms Machin said.

Though we’ve stated the gap is closing, diesels are still generally more expensive to purchase. This is because a diesel engine itself is more costly to manufacture, as factories must create machines with the durability required to meet the demands of high-compression diesel combustion.

Some diesel cars also have higher long-term running costs due to the technology required to maintain onboard emissions hardware. However, Ms Machin said that the NRMA’s own tests have proven the difference in running costs between petrol and diesel to be negligible.

So should you be purchasing a diesel? Ultimately, it’s up to you and what your specific preferences are. Balance cost with performance, comfort with space and safety with raw driving fun. If you understand your own requirements, you’ll likely know if you will find a diesel car preferable or not.

Fuel type is not a factor that affects registration or CTP insurance cost in NSW.

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Stephen Treacey

CEO and Founder, greenslips.com.au

Stephen is the founder and owner of greenslips.com.au. He was one of the first to recognise the benefits of the internet as a way to present CTP greenslip pricing and information. greenslips.com.au is still regarded as the innovator and authority in the space. Read more about Stephen

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