Running costs are now one of the biggest deciding factors for people buying a new car, with fuel costs and tax breaks at the forefront of many car buyers’ minds. But with so many car manufacturers vying to offer the most economical models on the market, how do you go about choosing a car which offers the very best value for money in the long and short term?
A couple of years ago, this decision was much simpler. If you ate up a lot of miles on the motorway, you’d go for a diesel; if you used your car for short trips in and around town, a petrol would have been the best option. But now there’s a new type of car which has come along and made this decision much trickier, and that’s the hybrid.
With their exceptional fuel economy both in town and on the motorway, hybrids are gaining ground on their petrol and diesel powered counterparts. But do they offer enough benefits to tempt the wallet of the average motorist? Here, we look at the pros and cons of hybrid, diesel and petrol cars to find out which really offers the best value for money.
While hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius have come down in price since they first came to prominence in the early 2000s, they’re still considerably more expensive than the equivalent petrol or diesel. This is due to them having an electric motor alongside a standard petrol engine, and all of the mechanics which go with it. Some more modern hybrids also have a series of on board batteries, which can be charged using a standard conventional power socket, but these tend to cost thousands more than petrol and diesel models — requiring a significant upfront investment.
Diesels were once a lot more expensive to buy outright than petrol cars; they were predominantly expensive saloon and 4×4 models. However, it’s now possible to buy smaller and more affordable cars with a diesel engine, such as the Vauxhall Corsa SE ecoFLEX or the Ford Fiesta 1.5TDCi, so even those with a small budget can benefit from the outstanding fuel economy offered by diesels.
However, petrol cars remain the cheapest type to buy outright, with a huge number of power outputs and performance ratings to suit even the tightest purse strings.
Long-term Fuel Economy
When you think about hybrid cars, the first thing that comes to mind is efficiency and economy. And while there’s no denying that hybrids are green, they aren’t necessarily the most economical, MPG-efficient cars on the market.
The electric motor found on board hybrids is used to power the car at low speed, with the energy normally lost through braking used to charge the motor’s battery. This means hybrids are great for those who spend a lot of time driving in town, especially in stop-start traffic. However, when you get out onto faster roads, the petrol engine has to do much if not all of the work, meaning that at high speed, hybrids are no less economical than the average petrol car.
Diesels, on the other hand, come into their own on the motorway, requiring fewer revs to maintain a consistent speed, and thus making them much more fuel efficient than the equivalent petrol-powered car. They can, however, be loud and difficult to drive at lower speed, so this is worth considering if you do a fair share of your driving in town.
Petrol cars have also come on in leaps and bounds in terms of fuel economy, and while they still struggle to rival diesels in mile-munching terms, new fuel injection technologies mean they’re now getting closer than ever before. Ford, in particular is leading the way with its EcoBoost range, which, thanks to a small 1.0l turbocharged engine, is able to keep pace with much larger cars whilst also offering the same outstanding MPG you’d expect from a small, economical hatchback.
Other Cost Considerations
Aside from the initial purchase price and on-going running costs, there are other cost considerations when it comes to choosing the right type of car for you.
For instance, opt for a hybrid, and you have to take in the potentially hefty cost of having the car repaired. With advanced on board technologies, hybrids can be pricey to maintain, and some garages may not even have the equipment and expertise required to service it properly, meaning that you may have to take the car to a specialist who will certainly charge more.
And as for diesel cars, there’s the matter of maintaining the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF), which, since they were introduced to diesels in 2009, have caused lots of mechanical issues for unsuspecting drivers. DPFs are essentially filters which reduce the amount of harmful fumes generated by diesel engines. However, they’re prone to becoming clogged, particularly at low speed, and if this isn’t dealt with quickly (by taking the car for a longer, high-speed run) this could lead to expensive repair work.
From an on-going maintenance point of view, then, petrol cars are the most affordable and reliable, requiring only minimal yearly servicing if the vehicle is kept in a good condition.
So, what type of car offers the best value for money in the long and short term? While hybrids have certainly revolutionised the car market, some drivers might be put off still by the high initial purchase price.
And as for diesels, while they’re still a great choice for those that spend most of their time on the motorway, their slightly higher purchase price, fuel cost and DPF maintenance requirements means they’re only going to suit a small number of drivers — meaning we don’t think they offer the best value.
Which leaves us with good old petrol-powered cars. Offering the cheapest initial purchase price, low maintenance costs and ever-improving efficiency ratings; we think petrol cars still offer the best combination of value and performance for the biggest majority of Britain’s motorists, for the time being at least.
With a range of products to help you maintain your petrol, diesel or hybrid car, Redex can help you get more miles and greater economy from a tank of fuel. For more information, visit the homepage.
Image credits: Matt Calkings