Petrol vs Diesel – Which is more expensive to own?


Can the fuel economy gains of a diesel ever overcome the more expensive (usually) price tag associated with it?

Fuel economy has never been as crucial a factor in the decision-making process of buying a new car as it is now. Manufacturers spend much of their development and research money on reducing fuel consumption and emissions. Here in South Africa, buyers have generally favoured cheaper petrol cars over their pricier diesel siblings, but in the SUV and bakkie segments diesel reigns supreme, mostly because these vehicles tend to be sold to buyers for whom the greater torque and power delivery characteristics are important. Either way, diesel engines are more expensive to manufacture and therefore they are generally priced significantly higher than their petrol equivalents. But with their greater economy, are diesel engines actually the more cost-effective purchase?

In order to calculate which is cheaper, we’ve taken the cost of two models within a vehicle’s range and compared their cost and fuel consumption for the life of the vehicle’s service/maintenance plan. This should (hopefully) remove any unforeseen costs of replacement parts, as they should be covered by the manufacturer. Basically, can the extra cost of a diesel car be overcome by the better fuel consumption over the length of the car’s service plan? For this excercise we used the coastal price of fuel – currently 95 Octane petrol is R11.87 per litre and diesel is around R10.64, if you shop around for the best price.

BMW 220i auto vs 220d auto


BMW 220i auto

BMW 220d auto

Price R485 784 R520 100
Fuel Economy 5.5L/100km 4.1L/100km
Range 946 km 1 300 km
Power and Torque 135 kW / 270 Nm 140 kW / 400 Nm
0-100kph 7.2s 7.0s
Maintenance plan 100 000 km 100 000 km
Service interval Determined by OBC Determined by OBC
Fuel Cost R 65 247 R42 560
Cost to run R551 031 R562 660

R11 629 cheaper to run


Also read: BMW 2-Series (2014) Driven

2014 BMW 2-Series Video Review

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Chevrolet Captiva 2.4 petrol vs 2.2 turbodiesel


Chevrolet Captiva 2.4LT Auto

Chevrolet Captiva 2.2LT Auto (turbodiesel)

Price R415 500 R431 300
Fuel Economy 9.5L/100km 7.8L/100km
Range 684 km 843 km
Power and Torque 123 kW / 230 Nm 135 kW / 400 Nm
0-100kph 11s 9.8s
Service plan 60 000 km 60 000 km
Service interval 15 000 km 15 000 km
Fuel Cost R67 679 R49 815
Cost to run R483 179 R481 115

R2 064 cheaper to run

Also read: Chevrolet Captiva 2.2D LT (2016) Review

Interested in a Chevrolet Captiva? 

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Ford Figo 1.5 petrol vs 1.5 turbodiesel


Ford Figo 1.5 Ambiente

Ford Figo 1.5TDCi Ambiente

Price R169 600 R193 900
Fuel Economy 5.9L/100km 4.1L/100km
Range 712 km 976 km
Power and Torque 82 kW 136 Nm 74 kW 215 Nm
0-100kph 11.8s 12.1s
Service plan 40 000 km 40 000 km
Service interval 20 000 km 20 000 km
Fuel Cost R20 432 R17 442
Cost to run R190 032 R211 342

R21 310 cheaper to run


Also read: Ford Figo 1.5 Automatic Sedan (2016) Review

Ford Figo 1.5 TDCi Ambiente Hatch (2016) First Drive

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Jeep Renegade 1.4 turbopetrol vs 1.6 turbodiesel


Jeep Renegade 1.4L T Limited

Jeep Renegade 1.6 Multijet Limited (turbodiesel)

Price R409 900 R421 900
Fuel Economy 6.0L/100km 4.6L/100km
Range 800 km 1044 km
Power and Torque 103 kW 230 Nm 88 kW 320 Nm
0-100kph 10.9s 10.2s
Service plan 100 000 km 100 000 km
Service interval 15 000 km  
Fuel Cost R71 220 R48 920
Cost to run R481 120 R470 820

R10 300 cheaper to run

Also read: Jeep Renegade 1.4L T Limited Launch Edition (2015) Review

Top 10 things to know about the New Jeep Renegade

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Mercedes-Benz C250 turbopetrol vs C250d turbodiesel


Mercedes-Benz C250

Mercedes-Benz C250d

Price R573 066 R598 200
Fuel Economy 5.9L/100km 4.5L/100km
Range 1119 km 1467 km
Power and Torque 155 kW 350 Nm 150 kW 500 Nm
0-100kph 6.6s 6.6s
Maintenance plan 100 000 km 100 000 km
Service interval OBC OBC
Fuel Cost R70 011 R47 869
Cost to run R643 077 R646 069

R2 992 cheaper to run


Also read: Mercedes-Benz C-Class C250 (2014) Review

Spy Shots: 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Facelift

Mercedes-Benz C300 (2015) Review

Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe (2016) Review

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Nissan X-Trail 2.0 petrol vs 1.6 turbodiesel


Nissan X-Trail 2.0 XE

Nissan X-Trail 1.6dCi XE

Price R363 900 R389 900
Fuel Economy 8.3L/100km 5.1L/100km
Range 723 km 1177 km
Power and Torque 106 kW 200 Nm 96 kW 320 Nm
0-100kph 11.1s 10.5s
Service plan 90 000 km 90 000 km
Service interval 15 000 km 15 000 km
Fuel Cost R88 657 R48 816
Cost to run R452 557 R438 716

R13 841 cheaper to run

Also read: Nissan X-Trail (2014) Review

Interested in buying a Nissan X-Trail? 

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Renault Duster 1.6 petrol vs 1.5 turbodiesel


Renault Duster 1.6 Dynamique

Renault Duster 1.5dCi Dynamique

Price R259 900 R279 900
Fuel Economy 7.6L/100km 4.8L/100km
Range 658 km 1042 km
Power and Torque 77 kW 148 Nm 80 kW 240 Nm
0-100kph 11.5s 12.2s
Service plan 90 000 km 90 000 km
Service interval 45 000 km 45 000 km
Fuel Cost R81 177 R45 950
Cost to run R341 077 R325 850


R15 277 cheaper to run

Also read: Renault Duster 1.5dCi 4WD (2015) Review

2015 Renault Duster Facelift In-Depth Review: Pricing, Interior, Rivals (Video)

Renault Duster Explore Edition (2016) Lands in South Africa

Interested in buying a Renault Duster?

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Toyota Hilux 2.7 petrol vs 2.4 turbodiesel


Toyota Hilux 2.7 SRX

Toyota Hilux 2.4GD6 SRX

Price R385 800 R432 100
Fuel Economy 10.6L/100km 7.1L/100km
Range 755 km 1127 km
Power and Torque 122 kW 245 Nm 110 kW 400 Nm
0-100kph 12.1s 13.2s
Service plan 90 000 km 90 000 km
Service interval 10 000 km 10 000 km
Fuel Cost R113 197 R67 975
Cost to run R498 997 R500 075

R1 078 cheaper to run


Also read: 2016 Toyota Hilux vs Ford Ranger – Offroad & Review

New Hilux vs Old Hilux – An Expert’s Opinion on What’s Changed

Drag Race: Hilux vs Ranger vs Amarok vs KB

Toyota Hilux vs Ford Ranger vs Isuzu KB vs Volkswagen Amarok (2016) Comparative Review

Want a Toyota Hilux? 

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Volkswagen Polo 1.2 turbopetrol vs 1.4 turbodiesel


Volkswagen Polo 1.2TSI Highline

Volkswagen Polo 1.4TDI Highline

Price R268 600 R278 200
Fuel Economy 5.1L/100km 4.1L/100km
Range 882 km 1098 km
Power and Torque 81 kW 175 Nm 77 kW 250 Nm
0-100kph 9.3s 9.9s
Service plan 45 000 km 45 000 km
Service interval 15 000 km 15 000 km
Fuel Cost R27 253 R21 891
Cost to run R295 853 R300 091

R4 238 cheaper to run


Also read: Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion (2015) Review

Drag Race: BMW i3 vs New Polo GTI - Electric vs Petrol

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI Spied

Drag Race: New VW Polo GTI vs Ford Fiesta ST

Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI (2014) Review

Looking for a Volkswagen Polo?

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The result here is generally in favour of petrol-powered cars. The higher cost of the diesel models is hardly ever recouped by the fuel savings made over the duration of the vehicle's service plan. That being said, the longer the service plan offered the more the results swing in favour of the diesels. If you do a lot of mileage, something like a Mazda diesel that has an unlimited mileage service plan for 3 years could well be worth considering. 

* Note that this exercise excluded resale values.