Petrol vs Diesel - Which is more expensive to own?

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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 exercise we used the coastal price of fuel – currently 95 Octane petrol is R15.44 per litre and diesel is around R14.04 if you happen to buy it wholesale. From a regular garage, you are looking more at around R15 per litre.

Audi Q5 2.0TFSI quattro vs 2.0TDI quattro

 

Audi Q5 2.0TFSI quattro

Audi Q5 2.0TDI quattro

Price R754 000 R704 000
Fuel Economy 6.8L/100km 4.9L/100km
Range 1 029 km 1 327 km
Power and Torque 185 kW / 370 Nm 140 kW / 400 Nm
0-100kph 6.3s 7.9s
Maintenance plan 100 000 km 100 000 km
Service interval Determined by OBC (max 30 000 km) Determined by OBC (max 30 000 km)
Fuel Cost R105 034 R68 772
Cost to run R859 034 R772 772
 

 

R86 262 cheaper to run

Audi SQ5 quattro (2017) Review

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Audi Q5 2.0 TDI quattro (2017) Video Review

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BMW 220i auto vs 220d auto

 

BMW 220i Sport line auto

BMW 220d Sport line auto

Price R533 359 R571 600
Fuel Economy 5.5L/100km 4.0L/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 R84 871 R56 160
Cost to run R618 230 R627 760
 

R9 530 cheaper to run

 


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BMW 330i auto vs 330d auto

 

BMW 330i auto

BMW 330d auto

Price R664 139 R737 039
Fuel Economy 5.5L/100km 4.9L/100km
Range 1 091 km 1 163 km
Power and Torque 185 kW / 350 Nm 190 kW / 560 Nm
0-100kph 5.8s 5.6s
Maintenance plan 100 000 km 100 000 km
Service interval Determined by OBC Determined by OBC
Fuel Cost R84 913 R68 812
Cost to run R749 052 R805 851
 

R56 799 cheaper to run

BMW 330d (2016) Review

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Ford Fiesta 1.0 turbopetrol vs 1.5 turbodiesel

 

Ford Fiesta 1.0 Trend

Ford Fiesta 1.5 TDCi Trend

Price R261 900 R292 500
Fuel Economy 4.3L/100km 3.3L/100km
Range 977 km 1 273 km
Power and Torque 74 kW 170 Nm 63 kW 175 Nm
0-100kph 10.5s 12.5s
Service plan 60 000 km 60 000 km
Service interval 15 000 km 15 000 km
Fuel Cost R39 825 R27 793
Cost to run R301 725 R320 293
 

R18 568 cheaper to run

 

Also read: Ford Fiesta 1.5 TDCi Trend (2018) Quick Review

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Interested in buying a Ford Fiesta? 

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Hyundai 2.0 Elite auto vs 2.0CRDi Elite

 

Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Elite auto

Hyundai Tucson 2.0CRDi Elite

Price R479 900 R544 900
Fuel Economy 9.0L/100km 6.7L/100km
Range 689 km 925 km
Power and Torque 115 kW 196 Nm 131 kW 400 Nm
0-100kph 11.1s 9.3s
Service plan 90 000 km 90 000 km
Service interval 15 000 km 20 000 km
Fuel Cost R125 044 R84 695
Cost to run R604 944 R629 595
 

R24 651 cheaper to run

 

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Land Rover Discovery S Si6 vs S Td6

 

Land Rover Discovery S Si6

Land Rover Discovery S Td6

Price R1 074 190 R1 027 406
Fuel Economy 11.5L/100km 7.8L/100km
Range 774 km 1 090 km
Power and Torque 250 kW / 450 Nm 190 kW / 600 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 R177 540 R114 639
Cost to run R1 251 730 R1 142 045
 

 

R109 685 cheaper to run

Land Rover Discovery Si6 HSE (2017) Review

Land Rover Discovery (2017) Video Review

Searching for a used Discovery?

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Mercedes-Benz C200 turbopetrol vs C220d turbodiesel

 

Mercedes-Benz C200 auto

Mercedes-Benz C220d auto

Price R616 536 R651 759
Fuel Economy 6.3L/100km 4.8L/100km
Range 1 048 km 1 375 km
Power and Torque 135 kW 280 Nm 143 kW 400 Nm
0-100kph 7.7s 6.9s
Maintenance plan 100 000 km 100 000 km
Service interval OBC OBC
Fuel Cost R97 236 R67 392
Cost to run R713 772 R719 151
 

R5 379 cheaper to run

 

Also read: Mercedes-Benz C-Class (2018) Launch Review

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Want to buy a Mercedes-Benz C-Class? 

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Nissan X-Trail 2.0 petrol vs 1.6 turbodiesel

 

Nissan X-Trail 2.0 Visia

Nissan X-Trail 1.6dCi Visia

Price R381 000 R405 500
Fuel Economy 8.3L/100km 5.1L/100km
Range 723 km 1 177 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 R115 319 R64 415
Cost to run R496 419 R469 915
   

R26 504 cheaper to run

Also read: Nissan X-Trail 1.6dCi 4x4 Tekna (2018) Review

Nissan X-Trail (2017) Specs & Price

Interested in buying a Nissan X-Trail? 

Find a new or used Nissan X-Trail on Cars.co.za

Toyota Hilux 2.7 petrol vs 2.4 turbodiesel

 

Toyota Hilux double cab 2.7 SRX

Toyota Hilux double cab 2.4GD6 SRX

Price R407 100 R442 700
Fuel Economy 10.7L/100km 7.1L/100km
Range 748 km 1 127 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 R148 620 R89 697
Cost to run R555 720 R532 397
 

 

R23 323 cheaper to run

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

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Want a Toyota Hilux? 

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Toyota Fortuner 2.7 auto vs 2.4GD-6 auto

 

Toyota Fortuner 2.7 auto

Toyota Fortuner 2.4GD-6 auto

Price R459 000 R496 000
Fuel Economy 10.5L/100km 7.9L/100km
Range 762 km 1 013 km
Power and Torque 122 kW 245 Nm 110 kW 400 Nm
0-100kph 12.4s 12.7s
Service plan 90 000 km 90 000 km
Service interval 15 000 km 15 000 km
Fuel Cost R145 890 R99 791
Cost to run R604 890 R595 791
 

 

R9 099 cheaper to run

Extended Test: Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4x4 Automatic [with Video]

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Searching for a used Fortuner?

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Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4TSI vs 2.0TDI

 

Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4TSI Comfortline

Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0TDI Comfortline

Price R447 900 R489 900
Fuel Economy 6.1L/100km 5.2L/100km
Range 951 km 1 115 km
Power and Torque 92 kW 200 Nm 81 kW 250 Nm
0-100kph 12.4s 12.7s
Service plan 90 000 km 90 000 km
Service interval 15 000 km 15 000 km
Fuel Cost R84 750 R65 730
Cost to run R532 650 R555 630
 

R22 980 cheaper to run

 

Conclusion*

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.

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