New Study Finds Diesel Cars Cheaper To Own


  • Mercedes-Benz GL Picture

    Mercedes-Benz GL Picture

    A University of Michigan study indicated a diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz GL could save its owner up to $15,619 over a five-year period, compared with a comparable gasoline version. | July 02, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • A new study shows it costs less to drive a diesel vehicle than one powered by gas.
  • The study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found savings averaged $2,000 to $6,000 over three to five years.
  • The lowest savings reported in the study was $67 in three years, and the highest was $15,619 in five years.

WASHINGTON — It costs less to drive a diesel-powered vehicle in the U.S. than one with a gas engine, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

The study, commissioned by Robert Bosch LLC, manufacturer of diesel components, found that drivers of diesel cars saved an average of $2,000 to $6,000 in total ownership costs during a three- to five-year period compared to their gasoline counterparts. The lowest savings reported in the study was $67 in three years and the highest was $15,619 in five years.

Even though diesel fuel costs more than gasoline and diesel vehicles generally carry a premium price, the report concluded: "The overall direction of the results supports the idea that diesel vehicles compete well within the U.S. market. In particular, the idea that one can get a return on one's initial higher investment in a diesel vehicle within three years is a very positive sign, considering that new vehicle buyers tend to keep their new vehicles for an average of three to five years."

The study found that virtually all sizes and types of vehicles show savings with diesel power. In the mass-market passenger-car segment, a VW Jetta owner saved $3,128 over three years, a Jetta Sportwagen owner saved $3,389 and a Golf saved its owner an estimated $5,013.

Results for diesel-powered luxury cars were also impressive. Mercedes-Benz E-Class owners saved $4,175 in the three-period, while owners of the GL-Class enjoyed up to $13,514 in savings. The M- and R-Class Mercedes models showed savings of $3,063 and $5,951, respectively, and a VW Touareg saved its owner $7,819 over three years. The top savings of $15,619 was for a Mercedes GL over a five-year period.

In the pickup truck segment, a Chevy Silverado 2500 saved its owner $3,673 compared to a similar truck powered by gas, and the owner of a GMC Sierra saved $2,720 in a three-year period. On the low end, a Dodge Ram 2500 diesel saved only $67 in three years compared to the gas version.

The study compiled data from a variety of government and commercial sources to come up with its total cost of ownership. This included average number of miles driven per year, historical average fuel prices, the consumer price index for new and used vehicles, EPA mileage ratings and average resale prices. It also took into account insurance, repairs, maintenance, registration fees and tax estimates for both three- and five-year periods.

Edmunds says: The perfect solution to rising gas prices may not exist, but this study shows that diesel power could provide an economical alternative.

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