Despite a focus on electric and hybrid vehicles, an influx of diesel cars into the North American market has created yet another choice for Canadian drivers. Despite making up only 3% of vehicles on Canada's roads, diesel vehicles provide an interesting option for a new or used vehicle, and it’s one that buyers should put on their radar. So if you're in the market for a car, weigh the pros and cons of diesel vs. gas to come up with the best choice for your style, budget, and preferences.

Diesel vs. Gas: How They Work

Before you dive into which engine is the better option, knowing a little bit about how each engine works is essential. Just a basic understanding can help you decide which one is the ideal choice for your needs, as well as why one engine might be superior to the other. Here's a simple explanation of how each engine works.

How Gas Engines Work

In internal combustion engines, a mixture of gas and air is drawn into the engine. The pistons within the engine then compress this air to about 1/10th of its original size. The air and gas mixture is then fired by a spark plug, which forces the piston back down. When the piston rises up again, it forces out the exhaust and the process starts over.

How Diesel Engines Work

Diesel engines work much the same, but only air is drawn into the engine when the piston falls. When the piston rises back up, it compresses the air to about 1/20th of its original size. But unlike a gas engine, this higher compression ratio generates enough heat to ignite the fuel itself when the diesel gas enters the engine, meaning that it doesn't need spark plugs. Then, just like a gas engine, the piston forces the exhaust out.

 

Fuel Efficiency and Performance of Diesel vs. Gas

In a side-by-side comparison of diesel vs. gas, diesel is the undisputed champion of fuel economy against non-hybrid gas vehicles. The reasoning is simple. From a scientific standpoint, diesel packs more energy into a smaller area, which can make it more efficient and more economical in terms of fuel efficiency. Overall, diesel fuel supplies about 15% more energy than gasoline. That translates to up to 30% better fuel economy than gas engines.

This spike in the energy of diesel fuel can also contribute to other performance numbers, including increased torque that can provide a boost to acceleration and towing.

Maintenance Costs of Diesel vs. Gas

The debate between diesel vs. gas and maintenance costs rages on. Interestingly, it depends on who you ask as to which one is cheaper to maintain. From the side of diesel fans, diesel engines contain fewer components, which can often translate to lower overall maintenance costs. And due to greater engine efficiency, the frequency of maintenance is much lower than gas engines.

However, some gas-engine fans will say that diesel engines actually cost more to maintain. This is due to the types of repairs necessary, the higher expense of the parts, and the rarity of qualified diesel mechanics.

What Types of Drivers Might Prefer Diesel

Aside from fuel economy and maintenance, diesel has a number of other perks that may convince drivers to buy a diesel vehicle. Here are a few of the top reasons you might prefer diesel over gas cars.

Off-the-Line Performance

Because diesel fuel packs heavy loads of energy compared to gas-powered cars, it provides a burst off the line that you'll notice as soon as you put the pedal to the floor. Interestingly, this isn't the result of more horsepower, but rather low-end torque that causes your car to get up and go a bit faster. Turbo variants of a diesel engine can also provide more acceleration thanks to a boost in horsepower.

What About Emissions?

After the Volkswagen diesel scandal, many North Americans began to doubt the emissions statistics, stating that diesel wasn’t held to the same standards as gas engines. Despite the misinformation and rumors, diesel engines and diesel exhaust are held to the same standards as their gasoline counterparts. So if you're worried about your carbon footprint, don't be. Diesel isn't any more harmful to the environment than gas.

Towing

The low-end torque that diesel engines have does more than just give you a jolt of acceleration off the line. It also translates to improved towing. With higher torque, you can tow heavy objects at lower RPMs, making diesel more efficient and better suited for the task. And with a ton of heavy-duty pickup trucks from Chevrolet, Ford, and more, you'll have plenty of choices.

Fuel Costs

Some advocates of gasoline cars often point to fuel prices as a primary reason why they won't go diesel. However, the price of both gasoline and diesel fluctuate so often that one isn't always higher than the other. Owning a diesel vehicle could be cheaper, only to become more expensive than gas a month later. To this effect, fuel costs are a wash.

Resale Value

If you like to trade up or trade-in your vehicle with regularity, you may find that a diesel vehicle is better for resale or trade-in value. Depending on the model, the resale value of diesel vehicles is about 30% more than its gas-powered equivalent. Although the upfront cost is almost always higher, the increase in resale value can balance this out.

Popular Vehicles With Both Diesel and Gas Options

If you're slowly moving toward a diesel vehicle but you're still not quite sure, you'll be excited to know that many gas-powered vehicles also have diesel variants. So if you've driven a gas truck before but want to go with a diesel truck, you might have that option. 

The preference of consumers to maximize power with fuel efficiency has also led to a rise in turbo-diesel vehicles throughout Canada. No matter what you're looking for, here are some of the most popular vehicles with both diesel and gas options.

Chevrolet Silverado

The top-selling heavy-duty truck segment has been led by the Chevy Silverado for decades, and with the addition of a turbo-diesel engine, you have yet another option for this industry-leading truck.

Equipped with a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel, the Silverado delivers 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque via a 10-speed automatic transmission. With 8.7 L/100km and 4,218 kg of towing power, the diesel Silverado is a beast.

Ford F-150

For over 50 years, the Ford F-150 has topped the vehicle sales charts in Canada due to its reliability, power, and reputation. And with a turbo-diesel option, it adds versatility to the list as well. Under the hood, a 3.0-liter V6 turbo-diesel does the heavy lifting, touting nearly 5,500 kg of towing capacity combined with 250 horsepower and 8.7 L/100km. If you're already a fan of the F-150, the turbo-diesel just makes it that much better.

GMC Canyon

If you don't need a massive full-size truck, the GMC Canyon is another great option for diesel enthusiasts. Boasting one of the only turbocharged diesel engines in its class, the Canyon churns out 181 horsepower courtesy of a small, yet peppy 2.8-liter turbo-diesel. Plus, with up to 7.8 L/100km of fuel efficiency and 3,500 kg of towing power, you may as well call this truck the little engine that could.

Note: If you're a Chevy fan, the Chevrolet Colorado is essentially the same model.

Land Rover Range Rover Sport

When you want to travel in comfort or don't need a truck, you should give the Land Rover Range Rover Sport a go. Featuring the plush, opulent interior that Range Rover is known for plus a 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine that provides 254 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque, this vehicle provides the best of both worlds. With a zero-to-100 time of 7.4 seconds, 3,500 kg of towing capacity, and up to 8.1 L/100km, this new car has all the power and luxury you need.

Whether you want the improved efficiency of a diesel engine or the familiarity of a gasoline engine, Clutch has a used car to fit the bill. 

With a wide selection of gas-powered and diesel vehicles and none of the hassle of purchasing a car in-person at the dealership, we make the car-buying process quick, simple, and fun. And with a 210-point inspection, a 6,000-km limited warranty, and a 10-day money-back guarantee, you can decide for yourself if diesel is the better vehicle. That's peace of mind you'll only find with Clutch.