Should I Buy Diesel, Gas, Hybrid or Electric? (Part 1 of 2)

More free, public electric charge stations are popping up… but is an electric car the best vehicle for your needs?

Part 1: Keeping With Tradition
By all accounts, we live in the age of choice. Thanks to an extremely competitive new and used car sales market, there are more car options than ever before: diesel, gas, hybrid and electric options are sold in every price range, and there are pros and cons to every type. Electric car manufacturers like Tesla draw their public appeal from being a sport/luxury vehicle that offers elite style with a smaller eco footprint than a Toyota Prius, but the upfront cost is beyond most buyers. On the other end of the spectrum, tried-and-true gas staples like Toyota’s Corolla and Camry lines offer users product familiarity, gas economy and renowned durability, but they’re not necessarily making waves in terms of what lies ahead in the “the future.” Of course, Toyota, Honda, Ford, Subaru and many other companies are manufacturing hybrids to keep up with the demand for more eco-friendly solutions. If getting the best fuel economy for your money is a top priority, we can help you sort through and evaluate your choices. So let’s look at the pros and cons of buying diesel, gas, hybrid and electric vehicles.

Part 1 of this series will focus on diesel and gas options, the more “traditional” engine types. Part 2 will explore the pros and cons of hybrid and electric vehicle types.

diesel meter

Diesel pros and cons
The term “deferred gratification” applies well to diesel engines and represents an important life lesson when it comes to saving money. Deferred gratification is the idea that you get more from an investment if you wait months or even years after investing to see the benefits. Retirement policies are the best example: it takes decades to turn tens of thousands of invested dollars into hundreds of thousands, and it happens slowly over the course of a lifetime. Smart investors know that while it feels like you’re losing money in the present, the earnings down the road are well worth the wait. Consider that the average diesel engine lasts over twice as long as a conventional gas engine, but the diesel sticker price runs about $1,000 to $3,000 more. Diesel engines get more our of each gallon, which easily translates into more savings and fewer trips to the pump; however, the immediate cost at the pump is higher for each fill-up. This turns some people away from diesel.

In the short term, a diesel car is going to cost a little more. The savings don’t come in the form of big “blowout-this-weekend-only-everything-must-go-buy-now-or-miss-it” sales, the likes of which car dealerships, malls and businesses across America try to lure you into with the illusion of saving your wallet from the evil “other guy.” Diesel engines, like any investment, will earn you savings over time. If you don’t plan on running keeping a diesel car for at least seven years and 200,000 miles (or more), you might not benefit enough to make it worth the cost.

Diesel Verdict
Diesels are an excellent solution for car buyers who are looking to stick with their vehicle for the long-term. And unlike electric charging stations, diesel pumps are found at virtually every conventional gas station. If you’re more into leasing or purchasing new/used vehicles every five years, you’ll enjoy better mpg (than most conventional gas engines), but it’s a little harder to say if you’ll make up for the higher upfront cost to get the long-term cost benefits.

The gas-run 2016 Ford Fiesta gets 31/43 mpg

Conventional gas pros and cons
There’s more room for debate here than in any other category. We can say right now that if you’re into most sports, luxury, race and muscle cars, and certainly if you’re into classic cars, then conventional gas engines are probably your go-to option. Being the most common car type, service shops are most equipped to service engine parts (along with diesel), so parts/labor costs are often lower. Likewise, the expert DIY’er will benefit from paying less for parts.

Gas engines offer such a range in mpg that it’s safe to say the biggest factor in determining the life of your gas engine is you. Do you want a big truck? Then you’re not going to get top mileage. Do you want a turbocharged V8? (And we ain’t talking vegetable juice.) No argument here, but you’re not going that route for the mpg. If muscle isn’t a concern, a lower-cost gas-run vehicle can save you on the sticker price and get you at or around 40 mpg. It’s harder to say if the quality of the vehicle and durability of its parts are up to snuff, but much of that will be determined by how you drive and maintain your vehicle. All this being said, conventional gas engines have improved significantly in the past few years, and virtually every major car company is offering new-and-improved models that feature better gas mileage than past models.

Gas Verdict
It just depends what you’re looking for. If you want to get the most mileage per gallon, as well as a lower sticker price, a gas engine may be for you. That being said, when it comes to mileage, the best gas engine will always fall short of the best hybrid engine. As the technology stands today and at least into the near future, gas vehicles are cheaper hybrids and electrics (comparing vehicles in a similar class). The cost savings over time are hard to quantify down to a science, so keep the gas option on the table if you’re looking to save money and get good mileage.

Gas fuel sticker example. Gas engine mpg varies greatly.

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