Should I keep my diesel car or buy a petrol car instead?

Diesel engines face pollution penalty

(Picture © TomTom)

British drivers have had a warning shot fired across the bonnet of their diesel-powered cars: Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, intends to hit diesel cars with an additional £10 tax to enter a newly created Ultra Low Emission Zone in London. 

If introduced, the pollution penalty would be in place by 2020. In addition, the mayor is said by The Times newspaper to be lobbying the government to increase the proportion of Vehicle Excise Duty, or road tax, on diesel-powered cars which fail to meet tough new targets for exhaust emissions.

The move comes as Britain fails to meet air quality targets set by the EU. In February, the European Commission launched legal proceedings against Britain over air pollution, which scientists believe is contributing to poor air quality that is causing an estimated 29,000 premature deaths in the UK each year.

Other cities are reported to be considering similar plans to those held by Johnson for London, including Oxford, Birmingham, Bristol and Sheffield.

Diesels emit a higher proportion of NO2, which scientists say is harmful to health and associated with respiratory symptoms, inflammation of the lung lining and susceptibility to bronchitis.

However, the government has encouraged the rapid rise of diesel-powered cars, by setting road tax and company car tax rates against the level of CO2 that cars emit, which favours efficient diesel engines.

Where does this leave drivers who are considering buying a new or used car – and should they choose diesel or petrol powered cars?

“Those who use their car to commute into city centres should either look for cars that meet the new Euro 6 emissions regulations, or they may wish to postpone their buying decision until there is clarity for consumers,” said Nick Reid, head of transformation at Green Flag.

Suzuki Alto in the London Congestion Charge zone

(Picture © Suzuki)

Matthew Pencharz, the mayor’s environment adviser, told The Times that diesel cars which meet tough emissions regulations – the recently introduced Euro 6 regulations for new vehicles – would probably qualify as clean enough to be exempt from the pollution penalty.

“Euro 6 emissions regulations were drafted to address the concerns over NO2 particulates from diesel cars, and the criteria to meet them are tough. So if drivers who wish to drive the cleanest diesel possible should ask the manufacturer’s sales staff to confirm whether the car is Euro 6 compliant,” suggests Reid.

In addition, used car buyers should seek out cars built after 2005. “Many models from this era adopted advanced direct fuel injection and particulate filters to meet EURO 4 legislation, so they are relatively fuel efficient and clean,” says Reid.

He adds that the development of new cars and cleaner engines, such as hybrid petrol-electric models, plug-in hybrids like the BMW i8, and electric cars like the Tesla Model S, is rapidly accelerating. “More choice comes to the market each year and in five years time the landscape and choice for drivers will be very different.”

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17 comments on “Should I keep my diesel car or buy a petrol car instead?

  1. jason August 2, 2014 1:08 pm

    i think this is going to have a massive knock on effect, from used car sale to spare parts sales,lose of jobs,the average person cannot afford new cars ,,so this is another excuse,the rich it wont effect,and they are the people who live in london,,,less cars on the road in london so they can get around without congestion,,,the congestion charge did not reduce traffic so now they are doing this,,just another divide,,rich get richer and have a better life while the average and poorer person gets picked on again and again,when the time comes to upgrade to euro 6 engine emission reduction it will cost a small fortune,its funny how rich bureaucrats introduce theses laws, hypcrites

    • Wrong Fuel Angels April 15, 2016 11:51 pm

      I think a penalty is a good idea. As much as I like a high powered guzzler. The environment comes first.

    • Wrong Fuel In Car April 22, 2016 7:38 am

      Can not agree with you more, just creating more of a divide in society.

  2. marv126p September 11, 2014 5:39 am

    already changed my car from a 1.6 petrol focus to a much more eco friendly 1.6tdci c-max or so I thought its a 2013 model with only 12500 miles and now I am going to lose thousands of its value like I did off the focus when they brought In the lower tax rates for diesel’s. I have had enough of all these politicians hitting us in every direction just tell us how much you need ONE TAX and leave us the hell alone. If you really cared about our health why oh why do you insist on making us live in this high stressed environment? that kills way more people that bloody diesel cars. UKIP all the way

    • Hugi September 11, 2014 1:08 pm

      You are spot on here. Feckers will be driving high emission cars, going on holidays getting fresh air, already can afford better standard food (which used to be standard for everyone, as they flippin hell destroyed small local producer, they can afford private health treatment, and so on… Regulations, regulations, … those feckers treating ordinary people like muppets. Everyone enjoys own home (bedroom 8 x 6 ft – my grannies chicken had more room in their shed), everything becomes so artificial and restricted. Nonsense after nonsense. And it looks like there is no escape from this, unless you get rich .

  3. Fuel Oil Services September 26, 2014 11:52 am

    SCR technology that requires adblue is definitely helping to improve the environmental efficiency of newer diesel vehicles and with the government getting increasingly stricter on carbon emissions, i personally think that if it is in your financial means then a diesel car is definitely a good choice

  4. Rich Mills January 26, 2015 11:14 pm

    Its been obvious to me and I’ve been saying this for years that diesel cars are bad. They cause cancer in addition to the stink/fumes. I was laughed at by my friends and everyone I met for suggesting this,as like the rest of the lemmings they were switching to diesels. Who’s laughing now?

  5. Phil Jones February 23, 2015 6:20 pm

    Simple, keep diesels out of cities and allow them in the rural areas where they are of most advantage.
    Allow a tax break on diesel fuel in the more rural areas to offset the additional mileage costs of having no option but drive a car. Add that tax to city petrol to pay for it.
    Thus you actively discourage city cars that pollute and out here in the sticks we can still afford to drive to work, the shops and to school. Plus (as a local delivery driver) home delivery won’t become too expensive. Potential for more delivery jobs meaning less car miles/journeys and more local trade.
    I’m open to offers in the transport ministry in the next parliament. 🙂

  6. Nick wye March 27, 2015 12:29 am

    There are a few factors to consider petrol cars require 1.5 or 2 times as much fuel to go same distance as diesels, in my job I drive all cars the so called Eco cars return 28-32mpg at motorway speeds, I have driven from 1.2 to 1.6 petrol. BMW 2.0td 55 mpg at motorway speeds, age is 2.0td 52mpg. Petrol is not as clean as well think it contains benzine one of the most poisonous additives added to replace lead in petrol.

  7. Kebab March 28, 2015 12:03 am

    The funny thing is that the cars fulfilling these euro regulations don’t actually fulfill them. They do only at low revs when tested by the emission technician but not on the street in real driving. It’s all just business.

    • petrol in a diesel car August 12, 2015 10:34 am

      If I only drove short journeys I would definitely have a petrol, for long journeys I still prefer a diesel car as the torque range and mpg I think are better for motorway driving.

  8. wrong fuel April 17, 2015 2:10 pm

    It looks like diesel cars are no longer seen as a “money saver”. I will be going petrol next time round.

  9. Terry Williams August 13, 2015 8:41 am

    The labour government (Gordon Brown late 80`s) initially reduced the tax on diesel to encourage people to buy diesel cars in the name of lowering carbon dioxide emissions. A couple of years ago i owned a petrol car and had it converted to LPG at considerable cost in order to do my bit. I wrote to my local MP asking why i was only given a road tax reduction of £10, pointing out that diesels emit various toxic fumes and particulates and that LPG is considerably cleaner than both diesel and petrol vehicles in all areas. As usual i had a disappointing response via her personal assistant that made no sense because she basically did not understand any of it and only referred to carbon dioxide. They keep moving the goalposts and bungling Boris`s comments are cause for concern with us drivers having been encouraged to by diesels in the past. It is a big industry and these u turns and scare mongerings will have huge financial consequences for all who make and own a diesel vehicle. It has always been obvious that diesels are dirty so why didn`t they deal with it properly in the first place?

  10. Terry Williams August 13, 2015 9:03 am

    My previous post (should be late 90`s not 80`s.)

  11. Joshua Boyes August 26, 2015 2:13 pm

    In the UK diesel prices have dropped considerably compared to petrol. Would this have any affect on peoples decisions?

  12. Rob January 30, 2016 3:41 pm

    CO2 is plant food, it is used in commercial greenhouses at 1200 parts per million 3 times normal atmospheric level, plants produce 40% bigger crops on average, there is no danger to humans at that level, they breath as normal, if it was a danger it would have been banned. There has been no global warming for almost 20 years while CO2 has been steadily rising.
    They have just taxed the air you breath, nox is the killer,

  13. Steve April 26, 2017 9:19 pm

    Poor people are being kept away from London more and more. they are having to move further away, cant afford the prices of trains year in year out and commuting etc. which all sounds great if you have money. but who is going to clean your offices and stock your supermarket shelves, of course if no one lives in london anymore the air will be beautiful. but you wont be able to walk through it because of all the rubbish and abandoned lives. Ok a bit extreme. Diesel fuel burns three times more efficiently than petrol, Electric cars are fantastic but where does the energy come from, well, power stations. They release poison into the atmosphere also.. mostly into the countryside outside big cities. And the other alternative is Nuclear power to power our power stations. Think Chenobyl , and lets not forget Japan. Tons of radioactive c**p is still being washed into the sea, it rains comes down the mountains washes under the entire area and out to sea, the reactors are still burning and lethal radioactive air is circulating the northern hemisphere and has been continuously since it happened. Yes the air is poisoned but then building all these new cars pollutes the atmosphere, transporting all these new cars poisons the atmosphere, and scrapping all the old cars and recycling them also causes pollution, cutting them up, turning the metal into more metal, and every process on every part, to recycle it or throw it into landfill will end up causing pollution of one kind or another. most of this wasnt ever done to clean the atmosphere or our air, it was only done to help a poor year for new car sales. and in the meantime they will just tax you more for everything in the meantime. Also the congestion charge doesnt work Two Days ago i drove into the zone to make deliveries in my adblue lorry and sat in traffic, waited at lights. and eventually left four hours later. all the companies going in just add a few pence to all there products to help with this cost so they dont have to cover it themsleves. in effect someone buying Cornflakes in Sunderland is still in there own way paying there way with the congestion charge. thank you feeling better for venting

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