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Which is the best type of fuel for you?

It used to be so simple: most cars had petrol engines, most vans and lorries used diesel. Now we’ve got a range of power sources to consider when choosing new vehicles. It makes the decisions for fleet operators and business drivers much harder.

To help you choose between the main fuels now available, here’s our handy guide to the pros and cons of each:

Petrol

PROS

  • Biggest infrastructure, with more petrol fuel pumps
  • Best driving enjoyment, thanks to the high-revving, responsive engines producing exciting sound
  • The cheapest to buy

CONS

  • Petrol vehicles depreciate the fastest
  • Contains carcinogens such as benzene. Burning petrol produces dangerous greenhouse gases
  • The price of petrol is volatile
  • Oil is a finite resource
  • Petrol is a dangerous substance to store and handle

Diesel

PROS

  • Lower lifetime cost than petrol because of lower depreciation
  • Engines last longer and tolerate much higher mileages than petrol
  • More efficient (by around 25% compared to petrol) so fuel costs are less, providing pump prices stay close. Diesel’s better mpg becomes more pronounced over long distance journeys. Some diesels can even be more fuel-efficient than a petrol hybrid
  • Produce less CO2, so road tax is lower than petrol
  • Higher torque or pulling power means mid-range acceleration of larger diesel cars is often better than sports cars. This pulling power is why diesel is used for commercial vehicles: it can pull much greater loads than any other option here

CONS

  • More expensive than petrol to buy (historically)
  • Produce nitrous oxides, hydrocarbons and particulates, so not necessarily greener than petrol
  • Insurance is higher for diesels than petrols, by up to 15% – because they cost more to replace or repair
  • Engines generally require a little less routine servicing but if they do go wrong, repair costs are higher. Latest figures show diesel engines are slightly less reliable than petrol
  • Volatile fuel price
  • Oil is a finite resource

Hybrid

PROS

  • Much cleaner and more fuel efficient, especially in urban motoring
  • Resale values high
  • Low tax bills and congestion charges
  • The conventional engine means there are no range limits

CONS

  • Generally much more expensive than petrol vehicles to buy
  • Maintenance may require specialist skills. Batteries expensive to replace
  • Hybrids emit more emissions than a pure electric vehicle
  • Plug-in hybrids need a dedicated charging infrastructure and take hours to recharge
  • Engines are generally smaller, so produce less pulling power for larger loads

Electric

PROS

  • Zero emissions
  • Minimal noise pollution and a quiet travelling experience
  • Zero road tax and congestion charging
  • Presents a green image
  • High residual value
  • Instant acceleration

CONS

  • Expensive to buy
  • Limited range
  • Extensive time to recharge
  • Scarcity of recharging points
  • Electricity is usually generated by fossil fuel power stations so in essence defeats the purpose of ‘going green’
  • Danger to pedestrians of silent approach

As we can see here, there are many pros and cons of running a fleet of vehicles with any one of these fuel types. Ultimately the decision of which fuel type, and which type of vehicle is chosen is up to each individual business, based upon the type of travel they do. Hopefully our quick guide has given you some insight into the positives and negatives of each fuel type which will help you to make your own decisions.

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