Is Buying a Diesel Car Worth it?

Once upon a time, vehicles with diesel-powered engines were known to be dirty, smelly, and loud. However, as time went on, diesel technology improved drastically and during the early 2010s, automakers like Volkswagen, Audi, and even Chevrolet were producing diesel cars that were popular with the general public at the time. But now that diesel cars have seemingly come and gone, is it worth it to buy one on the used market?

What is the difference between a diesel car and a gasoline-powered one?

Diesel engines are pretty similar to gasoline-powered engines in the sense that they operate using an internal combustion process that involves moving pistons inside cylinders and eventually transmitting power to the wheels.

One main difference between these two types of engines is that gasoline ignites at a higher temperature and needs spark plugs for assistance, whereas diesel fuel can ignite using compression only, negating the need for spark plugs and a distributor.

Also, diesel fuel is denser with energy, which means that diesel engines are typically 30 percent more efficient than their gasoline counterparts and also produce more torque. Technically speaking, buying a diesel-powered car is worth it if you drive over 10,000 miles per year – and mostly on the highway – given that diesel engines burn fuel slower, which leads to better efficiency and overall longevity.

 A driver fills up the tank of his car with diesel at a fuel station.
A driver fills up the tank of his car with diesel at a fuel station. | (Photo by Mark Renders/Getty Images)

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Are diesel engines still noisy and dirty?

While you might associate diesel engines as being dirty and noisy, thanks to large trucks that you often pull up next to when driving, the newer diesel engines are much quieter and smoother. However, they are still not as quiet as many newer gasoline engines as you’ll still hear some clacking and clattering.

What are the advantages of buying a diesel-powered car?

One of the main advantages of buying a diesel-powered car is the extended range that you’ll get out of them. Many of the newer diesel-powered cars can easily achieve 40 mpg on the highway, which leads to around 500 to 600 miles of range on a single tank. However, just note that diesel fuel can be more expensive than 87-octane gasoline in some areas, so while you might pay more at the pump, the good news is that you won’t need to fill up as much.

Also, diesel-powered engines are known for having a lot of torque, but not a lot of horsepower. For example, the now-extinct BMW 335d produced 265 hp and a massive 425 lb-ft of torque, besting its gas-powered 335i counterpart by 125 lb-ft. Additionally, it was able to achieve an EPA-estimated 36 mpg on the highway.

a front shot of a 2009 BMW 335D  in silver
2009 BMW 335D | BMW

RELATED: Are Diesel Engines More Expensive to Repair?

There are still plenty of diesel cars in the used market

In case you’re interested in buying a diesel-powered car, then there are still plenty of different models to choose from in the used market. Whether you’re looking for something to get you from point A to B or are in need of something more luxurious, there were a few different automakers that had diesel cars in their lineups over the past 10 years. Here are a few specific models:

  • Audi A3 TDI
  • Audi A7 TDI
  • Audi A8 TDI
  • BMW 540d
  • BMW 535d
  • BMW 335d
  • BMW 328d
  • Chevrolet Cruze Diesel
  • Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC
  • Jaguar XE
  • Jaguar XF
  • Volkswagen Golf TDI
  • Volkswagen Passat TDI
  • Volkswagen Jetta TDI
  • Volkswagen Beetle TDI
a picture of a Volkswagen Beetle TDI engine
Volkswagen Beetle TDI engine | Volkswagen

While we might be missing a few makes and models on this list, it’s still a pretty good representation of the various diesel-powered cars that you can still find. Fortunately, thanks to depreciation, many of the cars on that list can be purchased for less than $20,000, although some of the high-end luxury models are still selling between $20,000 to $40,000.

Either way, you should still be able to score a good deal on many of these diesel models as the demand for them has dropped considerably over the years. As you can imagine, this can easily work in your favor and you’ll be treated to many years of torque-filled diesel motoring.