Revolutions: Gasoline vs Diesel

Volume 2 Issue 2 - Extra

During the past several weeks, I have had the opportunity to talk with several former diesel truck owners. Each of them had succumbed to last year’s high fuel prices and to a feeling that owning a diesel was simply too expensive – they had swapped their diesel-powered vehicle for a gasoline-powered counterpart. While I empathize with the feeling that something must be done when fuel costs double – a statistic that means thousands of dollars in additional fuel expenses per vehicle even for relatively low mileage drivers – but better to go do something benign, like write your elected officials, than to switch from diesel power to gasoline; at least if the desired result is to save money on fuel as well as on the total cost of ownership (TCO) of your vehicle.

Gasoline vs Diesel

I felt intuitively that diesels are less expensive to own and operate than gasoline-powered vehicles but when I looked at the numbers I was surprised at just how much money could be saved (or lost if you elect to follow the gasoline route). So here is my take on gasoline vs diesel.

Spend More, Save More

Even during the highest prices we saw last peak ($5.00-plus per gallon for diesel) it was still more economical to run a diesel vs gasoline vehicle. In fact for high load applications like heavy towing or hauling, you were saving more money then, compared to gasoline, than since diesel fuel prices returned to sane levels of around $2.20 per gallon. This is true even though diesel and regular gas prices are about the same now; and then diesel was running about a dollar more per gallon.

As I compare the cost of running diesel and gasoline-powered trucks, I am going to assume that the vehicle is used for high load operations such as towing a horse trailer or fifth wheel or for hauling heavy loads. These applications and others like them are the intended application for diesels. As we will see, you can use your truck to commute or to run errands and still find that diesels cost less to operate, but the savings are more pronounced and less affected by higher diesel prices when you are using your truck for the purpose for which it was designed.

Gasoline vs Diesel: Non-Fuel Expenses

Before we compare fuel costs, I want to look at some other expenses associated with owning and operating a truck. We will find that while some of these expenses favor a gas vehicle, that when we look at the overall total cost of ownership diesels win – before we ever compare fuel costs. Here are several areas to consider when we compare diesel to gas-powered vehicles. You may think of others, if so I’d love to hear about them.

  • Purchase Price
  • Lifespan
  • Maintenance Costs
  • Resale Value
  • Use

Let’s compare diesel vs gasoline for each of these categories...

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