If you’re the type of driver who holds onto a car for the long haul — three to five years, or longer — you’d be doing yourself a great disservice by not looking into a vehicle with a diesel powertrain. Though you might experience a slight sting at the pump with each fill, recent studies have indicated that long-term costs of ownership for oil-burners trounce a comparable gasoline vehicle.
It’s not just for ownership either — drivers can save money by leasing diesels as well. Between three and five years, a study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute’s Automotive Futures group said that compared to a gasoline car, diesel owners could expect to save about $2,000 to $7,000.
These figures were calculated using auction sales results in 2012 and 2013, accounting for thousands of diesel vehicles that had comparable gasoline siblings. In addition to getting better fuel economy, the study found that depreciation, fuel costs, repairs, maintenance, insurance, and fees and taxes were all lower for diesels.
“Though there are some exceptions to these positive results for some of the diesel versions of vehicles from a total-cost-of-ownership perspective, the overall direction of the results supports the idea that diesel vehicles are competitive within the U.S. market,” the agency’s managing director Bruce Belzowski said in a statement. “In particular, the idea that buyers can get a return on their initial higher investment in a diesel vehicle within three years is a very positive sign, considering new buyers tend to own their vehicles for an average of three-to-five years.”
These savings are, of course, offset partially by a higher purchase price. A base 2015 Chevy Cruze costs $16,170, but hop upward to the diesel trim and you’ll be shelling out $25,660. But that’s a more extreme example; the Volkswagen Jetta TDI costs $21,640, though the base model Jetta with the 1.8 liter turbo will set you back $17,325.
However, over the long term, lower depreciation and a cited 27% decrease in fuel costs will ultimately make them a better bet. Further, the study only measured out three to five years — the savings will only continue to improve the longer one owns the vehicle.
The University study pointed out that resale values after three years are 30% to 50% higher for diesel passenger cars and SUVS, and 60% to 70% percent higher for diesel medium-duty pickup trucks. “The percentages are even higher after five years of ownership,” the study noted.
As cost-efficient as diesels are though, they probably won’t hold a candle on the cost of ownership experienced by electric car drivers. Though mass-market EVs haven’t been around long enough to accommodate an in-depth study in numbers that would provide a satisfactory sample size yet, the omission of fossil fuels and the complexity of engines and transmissions will bode well for their cross-comparison.