In Europe, people have been driving cars with diesel engines for decades; however, here in the U.S., overseas diesel passenger vehicles are a lot less popular because most people relate diesel engines to big trucks.
Many people also think that diesel fuel is more expensive than normal gasoline and that diesel cars are more expensive. They may remember old diesel engines were heavy, smoky, slow and loud. The last American diesel cars manufactured were the Oldsmobiles of the 1980s, and since then there have been no other American car manufacturers producing cars with diesel engines to sell here.
However, the plain truth is that modern diesel passenger cars are typically more fuel-efficient than their gasoline counterparts. An example of this would be Volkswagen’s 2013 Jetta TDI, which has a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine that is more fuel efficient than its Volkswagen twin, the 2013 Jetta with a standard 2.5-liter 5-cylinder gasoline engine.
I have put together this comparison to see if buying a diesel-powered Jetta is more economical than buying its gasoline-powered variant. Although this comparison is just between Volkswagen’s Jettas, it applies to every car that has either a diesel or gasoline engine option.
Typically a diesel passenger car is more economical than its gasoline counterpart.
The Volkswagen Jetta SEL with navigation comes fully loaded with leather seating, a sun roof and, you guessed it, a built-in navigation system. This Jetta is powered by Volkswagen’s 2.5-liter 5-cylinder gasoline engine, which is good for 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. With these figures the Jetta can move from a standstill to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds. This specific model gets 24 mpg city/34 mpg highway/29 mpg combined. This Jetta SEL with navigation comes to a grand total of $25,250.
The Volkswagen Jetta TDI (Turbo Diesel Injection) Premium with navigation comes equipped with exactly the same features and items the SEL model comes with; however, this Jetta is powered by Volkswagen’s 2.0-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine, which is good for 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. With these figures, the Jetta TDI can launch from 0 to 60 mph in approximately 8.7 seconds. This specific variant of Jetta with the diesel engine achieves 30 mpg city/42 mpg highway/36 mpg combined. This Jetta TDI Premium with navigation comes in at a price of $27,055.
To find out which Jetta is more economical, we must first know a few basic facts. These facts include the national average price of a gallon of regular gasoline, which is $3.27. We must also know the national average price of a gallon of diesel fuel, which is $3.85. The final fact we must know is that the average American drives 13,476 miles per year.
If the Jetta SEL gets an average of 29 mpg and is driven 13,476 miles per year at the current gasoline price, it will cost $1,519.54 to run for one year. If the Jetta TDI gets an average of 36 mpg and is driven 13,476 miles per year at the current diesel price, it will cost $1,441.18 to run for one year. This means that the diesel owner will be saving $78.36 at this fuel cost annually.
We must bear in mind that the Jetta TDI costs $1,805 more than the Jetta SEL, so what this means is that in order for the Jetta TDI to be more economical in the big picture drivers must own it for 23 years to make up for the price difference between the two models.
It is obvious that diesel passenger vehicles get much better fuel mileage then their gasoline twins; however, it does not make sense financially for most buyers. Most buyers will have to wait a long time until their fuel savings eventually add up to enough cover the cost premium for their diesel vehicle.
Until automakers find a way to produce and offer diesel vehicles to consumers in a more cost effective manner, they remain daft in the automotive marketplace.
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