Buying a Car

Your choice of car can have an impact on air quality.

New cars

While new cars are required to meet Euro6 standards for emissions, real world testing reveals that many diesel models are emitting nitrogen dioxide at levels many times the official test result. You can check ratings for all diesel and petrol vehicles at the Air Index.

diesel real world emissions

Should I buy an electric car?

The Government has announced that fossil fuel vehicles, including hybrids, will no longer be sold in the UK from 2030.  In order to meet carbon reduction targets to tackle the climate emergency, we actually need to see a rapid, major transition to EVs by 2030.  Even if we achieve that, there will still be around 40% of cars that are fossil fuelled in 2030.  So, is an EV a good choice for you right now?

Everything you need to know to make a decision is on the Go Ultra Low website, jointly funded by the car industry and government.   If you decide the time isn’t right for you, read on for important information about diesel v petrol.

Diesel or not?

Petrol engine technology has improved a lot in recent years, so fuel economy no longer plays such a big part in deciding between diesel and other fuels. In fact petrol-hybrid cars are even more efficient than diesel.  Diesel engine cars cost significantly more to buy than petrol engine cars too, so the lower cost of ownership that was obvious for diesel a few years ago is no longer necessarily true. Which? estimates that it would take 7 years of owning a new diesel Ford Focus before the better fuel economy outweighs the higher initial cost for an average mileage driver.

The revelations about true emissions and the response of governments in recommending clean air zones in cities, means that the market for new diesel vehicles in the UK is declining rapidly. Older diesels are charged more for entering the London congestion charging zone, and some councils are charging more for parking permits for diesel cars in residential parking areas. These measures are not likely to be required in Somerset, but will be relevant to you if you drive to Bristol, Bath, London and other major cities.

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The negative impact of diesel emissions on air quality in urban areas means that the demand for second hand diesels is also falling. In addition several manufacturers have indicated they will stop producing diesel and petrol engine cars during the 2020s.

This article from April 2018 quotes a car industry source, “..there is now a huge issue with resale value. Who will want to buy your diesel car when you want to sell it in five years’ time. That is the biggest problem.”

If you are in the market for a new car, think carefully about the implications of these market changes for future values in the second hand market.

Of course, there are valid reasons for choosing diesel engine vehicles, such as if you tow a caravan. But as a rough guide if you drive less than 10,000 miles a year, and/or you drive mostly in urban areas or on short trips, diesel is likely to be the wrong fuel for you.
For more guidance on choosing between diesel and petrol, including hybrids, see this Which? article.

It’s also worth remembering that you should choose a car that suits your everyday needs.  If you choose a bigger, diesel car because you make occasional long trips, but only need a small car for everyday use,  it will usually make more financial sense to buy the small car, and hire a bigger car or van just for when you need it.