There’s a growing trend for motor manufacturers to launch new models in all four fuel types, and a quick price comparison generally reveals petrol as the cheapest in the range. As well as being relatively good value for money, petrol cars are also nice to drive, with their high-revving, responsive engines. On the flipside, petrol engines aren’t as fuel efficient as diesels - although this is partly offset by cheaper fuel (around 20p per gallon less than diesel). Petrol cars also tend to depreciate faster than alternative fuel models, plus petrol combustion produces significant levels of carbon dioxide, as well as other harmful gases such as nitrogen oxide.
Diesel cars tend to be more fuel efficient than petrol models, and the engines are generally able to cope well with higher mileage – which makes them a popular choice with long-distance commuters. But if something goes wrong with a diesel engine, repair costs tend to be quite high. There’s been plenty of media attention around diesel pollution, and it’s true that the hydrocarbon and particulate emissions present a risk to air quality. In fact, a sharp decline in new diesel sales suggests that worries about the future of diesel could be reducing consumer demand, which may have a knock-on effect on resale prices.
The major plus-points of driving an electric car are the zero road tax and congestion charge, rapid acceleration, a super-quiet engine, relatively high residual value, and zero emissions during use - although you should remember that if the electricity that charged the battery was generated in a coal or oil-fired power station, then it’s still responsible for producing greenhouse gases. The major downside is the limited range, and although range has been extended on the latest models, it’s still relatively low to conventionally powered cars. Electric cars can take a long time to recharge too, and if you’re going on a long journey out of the city, finding a convenient charging point can sometimes be a challenge.
Hybrids are highly fuel efficient and far more eco-friendly than petrol or diesel cars. And although they’re not quite as green as a pure electric, they have a far greater range. The on-board internal combustion engine works in harmony with the electric motor, so it doesn’t have to pack the same punch as the engine in a regular petrol car. Which means the low-power, low-compression engine under a hybrid bonnet won’t suffer the same wear and tear as a regular petrol engine, and they can typically rack up high mileage with little maintenance. The only downside with hybrids is the price, because they’re generally the most expensive option in the range.