Fuel Showdown: Diesel Versus Petrol

And so we arrive at one of the most debated topics at present; diesel versus petrol. The efficiency of each, no matter your choice of vehicle, is a factor that can save you financially and also protect the environment. It’s a small decision with the potential for big impact. Here’s what you need to know.

Arguably, diesel has been the poster child of fuel economy for the last decade. But is that the whole story? If you’re a boat owner, then you might prefer a petrol engine which is low-maintenance and relatively quiet by comparison; much more appealing for a cruise around the bay.

We take a look at both options so you can work out which will be better for you in the long run.

What About Diesel?

Diesel is a fuel mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petrol which ignites without spark due to air compression. In short, the point of difference is that diesel engines rely on compression in order to power the engine.

From this, diesel engines are larger in size and tend to be far more complex than a petrol design, allowing them to produce more torque. This is neither an outright positive or negative, it really does depend on your vehicle size. However, if you’re in the market for a small car, then you’re likely to find more choice in a petrol engine as a result.

As far as high-speed performance, here is a simple way to make the comparison. Petrol is flashy and works very well for short and fast trips. Diesel is a workhorse; slower, but able to endure for the long run. If you use your car less often, say, to drive to the station and back during the week, then a diesel engine isn’t a necessity.

Certainly, diesel engines tend to be more expensive upfront than their competition, but that doesn’t mean they can’t save you down the track. As a general rule, diesel uses less than 30% petrol, which can easily negate the initial cost and your ongoing petrol expenses.

What About Petrol?

A petrol engine is an internal combustion system that is ignited. The process differs from a diesel engine in that the fuel and air are usually pre-mixed and uses a spark ignition.

On the whole, petrol engines offer better day-to-day convenience. They tend to be smoother than diesel, require less maintenance and, at a petrol station, they often outnumber diesel pumps eight to one. This means there’s much more to choose from, which is great for your budget.

If you’re taking to the high seas, then petrol is a firm favourite of many boat owners. It is generally considered cheaper to run and low-impact. The biggest bonus of a petrol engine is the amount of noise and vibrations it doesn’t make, which is appealing if your boating is purely for leisure. Sailing the harbour and shoreline with a loud motor is a sure fast way to attract unwanted attention!

So Which One Is Right For You?

You have the major arguments, now you need to look at your situation and decide whether petrol or diesel is the right choice for you. Here are a few key factors to consider;

  • If you’re looking for a brand new vehicle, the diesel model may cost up to 15% extra compared to a similarly equipped petrol engine car.
  • What is your primary need? If you travel often and for long periods of time, perhaps for ‘road trip’ holidays or to visit family interstate, then diesel could be the better option.
  • How much maintenance are you willing to put up with? Though there are no guarantees, the complexity of the diesel engine can make it more difficult and costly to repair.
  • If you value your environmental conscience over cost and efficiency, then the signs point to petrol. A complete lack of progress in cleaning our air can come as no surprise when over half of all new cars are now diesel.

At the end of the day, it really is all a matter of perspective and understanding. Recognise the drawbacks of your options and evaluate your usage before making a decision. Ultimately, remember that the world of fuel is constantly evolving in line with sustainability values and high-tech advancements. So though you might make a choice today, it’s never too late to change your mind tomorrow.

Samantha Pudney loves all things engine! Her position at Power Equipment means that she has a front of the line view of industrial engines every day.

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