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Should I buy a diesel car?

Diesel cars have become significantly less popular over recent years due to drivers’ worries about rising costs, pollution and government policy.

Since the VW scandal in 2015, diesel has had a lot of bad press. The concerns over nitrogen oxides have prompted governments and local authorities to target diesel cars with restrictions and higher costs.

In fact, many cities have made it clear that they just don’t want diesel cars that emit lots of harmful gases on their roads. So are they still worth it?

 A driver fills up their diesel car

 

Is it worth buying a diesel car?

Whether it’s worth buying a diesel car in 2022 partly comes down to how you plan to use it. If you’re mainly using the car for long journeys on the motorway, then a diesel could make sense.

But, if you’re just be making short trips across town, then buying a diesel car is unlikely to be the best choice.

If you’re racking up a high mileage, the fuel economy of diesel cars generally beats petrol or even hybrid models.

But if you’re making short journeys at low speeds through town, diesels could be problematic. This is because diesel particulate filter (DPF) tends to get blocked more frequently with short journeys.

DPFs are designed to reduce emissions from diesel cars by capturing and then storing exhaust soot. But blockages can potentially leave you with expensive repair bills. So an electric, hybrid or perhaps even a more economical petrol model might be better for you.

If you tend to make longer journeys, diesel isn’t just more economical than petrol - there are also plenty of discounts on diesel cars right now.

Demand for diesel models has fallen considerably, what with all the negative headlines as well as the higher taxes and charges.

You might be able to get a big enough discount to more than offset the higher costs of driving a diesel car. But there’s always the risk that the taxes and charges that diesel motorists face could go up in the future.

If you’re buying a new diesel model, you might face higher car tax and parking charges. And if you buy an older model, you might be hit with higher company car tax and daily charges to drive into London and some other cities.

 

Should I buy a second-hand diesel car in 2022?

If your heart is set on diesel, it might be best to choose a newer model that conforms with the latest Euro 6 emissions standards. This is especially true if you're mainly doing long-distance driving along motorways,

Owners of pre-2015 diesel cars face extra charges if they enter the clean air zones of certain UK cities. But you can avoid them if you opt for a diesel model that meets Euro 6 standards.

However, new, tighter Euro 7 emissions standards will be introduced in mid-2025. These standards mean drivers of these newer models could eventually be hit by the charges as well.

 

Pros & Cons of diesel cars

Pros:

  • Diesel engines are more fuel efficient than a comparable petrol engine, using up to 20% less fuel

  • Fuel costs should be cheaper for drivers racking up a high mileage or spending hours on the motorway

  • Lower CO2 emissions

Cons:

  • Newer diesel cars face higher road tax than petrol cars, though diesels made before April 2017 are taxed at a lower rate.

  • Diesel engines emit higher levels of nitrogen oxide than petrol equivalents. Diesel cars tend to be noisier than petrol cars.

  • If you're making frequent short journeys there's an increased risk you'll get a block in the diesel particulate filter.

  • Costs have already risen for diesel drivers. And they may increase further as more restrictions and even tighter emissions standards appear

  • Declining demand may mean their re-sale value is reduced.

 
 

Should I sell my diesel car?

Let's say you live in London, Bristol or Birmingham and have an older diesel car that doesn’t meet Euro 6 standards. It might be best to sell your car now and move on. On the other hand, if you live in a rural area and have a newer diesel car, then there’s less reason to sell just yet.

There is the risk, however, that the values of used diesel cars fall at a faster rate than petrol cars over the coming years. More drivers may well ditch their diesels and the demand for the cars could fall further.

Not only that, new Euro 7 emissions standards from 2025 could push up costs for more diesel owners. Especially if the standards become the minimum requirement to enter UK clean air zones without having to pay a daily charge.

Even if you decide to hold on to your diesel car for the time being, it might be worth reconsidering the sale option again before 2025.

But remember, if you do decide to sell your diesel car, you need to let your car insurance provider know.

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2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars

In 2020, the UK government made a commitment to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

This brought forward an earlier pledge by an ambitious 5 years. But hybrid models can still be sold until 2035. After that, every car sold in the UK should be fully electric, or as the government puts it “fully zero emission at the tailpipe.”

The government says the plan will put the UK on course to become the fastest G7 country to de-carbonise cars and vans. This is part of a wider plan to mitigate climate change and improve air quality.

At the same time, the government announced £1.8bn in extra funding to encourage more of us to choose zero-emission vehicles. That includes £1.3bn to accelerate the rollout of electric charging points.

 

 

Are diesel cars banned in London?

You can still drive a diesel car in London, but you have to pay for it.

The Low Emission Zone (LEZ) was introduced for central London in 2008. The rules have been getting steadily stricter ever since.

In April 2019, the LEZ was replaced with what is now known as the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), signalling an even tougher approach.

Drivers with diesel cars that don't meet Euro 6 standards need to pay a £12.50 daily charge to enter the ULEZ. These are most vehicles that were made before 2015.

That’s on top of the £15 daily charge for driving into London’s congestion charge zone between 7am and 10pm.

The ULEZ was expanded in October 2021 to cover a much larger area of London. This stretches to, but doesn't include, the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205).

Other UK cities are taking a similar stance - deterring use of older diesel cars through higher charges, rather than outright bans.

Bristol introduced its Clean Air Zone in October 2021. This means drivers with diesel cars that don’t comply with Euro 6 standards pay a £9 daily charge if they enter certain areas of Bristol.

Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone, introduced in June 2021, leaves drivers of diesel cars that don’t meet Euro 6 emissions standards with an £8 daily bill to enter the centre of the city.

German cities have taken tougher line. From 2018, they began to ban diesel cars that fell short of Euro 6 standards and were therefore emitting higher levels of nitrogen oxides.

 

Diesel versus petrol on the environment

Just how harmful a diesel car can be on the environment depends on its age.

For newer diesel models that comply with Euro 6 emissions standards, the problem of nitrogen oxide emissions has largely been solved.

he latest diesel cars should only emit a tiny output of harmful gases compared to the older diesels. This is because of a combination of an advanced catalytic converter, absorber and particle filter.

Diesel cars also produce less CO2 than petrol cars, making them comparatively less of a contributor to global warming. At one time, the government was even pushing diesel as an environmentally friendly alternative to petrol.

But the longer-term argument for diesel has been lost. The government wants to lower pollution and mitigate climate change. It's for this reason carmakers won’t be able to sell new diesel and petrol cars after 2030.

 

Alternative options to diesel cars – electric cars and green cars

There are various alternatives to diesel cars. But it looks as though the UK government is set on encouraging us all to drive battery electric vehicles (BEV), given its investment in charging points infrastructure.

More than 20 new fully electric models made their market debut by the end of 2021. So there’s no shortage of choice in the all-electric category, including small city runabouts, sedans, SUVs and coupes.

It’s important to think about whether you’ll be able to charge your BEV cost-effectively. Ideally you need a home that’s suitable for installing a charging point for your car.

The overall cost can be a barrier to BEV ownership, as BEV purchase prices are generally higher than petrol or diesel cars. This also means that BEVs are on average more expensive to insure.

However, the cost of BEVs is expected to decline over the coming years. The technology is ever-improving and automakers should reduce their prices as demand and sales increase.

As a halfway house, some people are choosing plug-in hybrid or hybrid models for the time being. Hybrids offer increased flexibility, allowing you to fill up at the pump when you want to, instead of having to rely on charging points.

Waiting a little longer should mean that public charging infrastructure is more widespread when you're finally ready to commit to a fully electric car. You could also find that you get more for your money once electric cars have become more established.

 

The future of diesel cars

Diesel cars along with their petrol counterparts are in their endgame. Governments around the world are drawing up plans to phase out internal combustion engines (ICE), and instead encourage the use of electric vehicles.

So, when will diesel cars be banned? The UK has gone further than most, with its pledge to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2030 and hybrids by 2035. However, there’s no suggestion yet that the UK government or local authorities will ban the actual use of diesel cars.

Drivers with newer diesel cars that meet Euro 6 emissions standards should also continue to be exempt from the additional charges that some cities are levying. And for some time to come too.

But it’s difficult to predict how legislation may change nationally and locally over the coming years. Especially as even stricter Euro 7 emissions standards are expected to come into force in 2025.

So, taxes and charges for diesel as well as petrol drivers may well increase again as authorities look to encourage motorists to adopt greener alternatives instead.