Is a Diesel Right For You?

fuel premium gas

For many years on my radio show, I have said the United States should go the way of the Europeans and offer more diesels in cars and SUVs. When I get a high mileage driver on the show, I almost always recommend a diesel model, and explain that a diesel engine will generally go 300,000 miles or more without major issues if you do routine maintenance.

Recently, a caller asked me why diesels run so much longer, and I was sort of stumped. Between my own research, talking to professionals, and listener feedback, I am now more convinced than ever that diesel really is the way to go for many people.

Fuel economy is certainly an issue and diesels tend to do very well. VW has a great lineup of diesel cars that do well over 40-miles per gallon. Audi, BMW, and Mercedes Benz all have cars and SUVs that have diesels, and there are a lot of new entries on the horizon, like a Chevy Cruze diesel, and a Mazda 6 diesel. Then of course we have a lot of diesel choices in heavy duty pickups.

As for longevity, there are a couple of reasons diesels last so much longer. One is, diesel engines are built beefier. Gas engines have spark plugs which cause the mixture of fuel and air to ignite in the cylinders. Diesels are higher compression engines, meaning it squeezes the air until it builds up enough heat, then injects the diesel fuel into the cylinder. This causes it to ignite on its own, which is a much more powerful explosion than the gas setup.

The other big issue is diesels turn much lower RPMs than gas engines do. The diesel achieves higher torque at a much lower speed, so it’s operating at much lower rpm [revolutions per minute] a greater percentage of the time than gasoline engines. The lower engine speed translates into fewer times a piston has to move up and down, the fewer times a valve must close, and so forth. All these things happen a lot, but not as often as they do in a gasoline engine. Lower RPMs mean longer engine life.

Every case is different and you must calculate your own miles driven, the higher cost of a diesel, and the higher cost of diesel fuel. Some cars and SUVs make really good sense, however. A recent study published in Forbes looked at the 2012 GL350 Bluetec diesel versus the gas equivalent, the GL450. Over 5 years, the diesel owners will spend $10,100 less than the owners of the gas Mercedes.

Many people today remember the first diesel cars that got here, they were slow, smelly, and most of all loud. Those days are gone. The new diesels have incredible torque, are so quiet you can barely hear them run, and in many cases emit fewer pollutants than gas engines. With most diesels being turbocharged today, you can get a smaller, more fuel-efficient engine, with more horsepower.

People also think that diesels cost more to maintain, but experts say it is about a wash. Diesels do not have spark plugs, spark plug wires, or a distributor. The down side is diesels hold more oil and the oil changes cost more. Overall, maintenance costs appear to be about the same.

Diesels are not for everyone, but neither are hybrid and electric vehicles. It is just another alternative that might be well worth looking at.

Jerry Reynolds, The Car Pro

Photo Credit: welcomia/Shutterstock
44 Comments
  1. Georgina Clemo 4 years ago

    Hi, I’m in the Sacramento area, and looking for a Acura MDX. Really, I’m looking for a newer, used 2011-2013 Acura MDX. Do you have an Acure dealer you wuould recommend? thank you for a wonderful show, we all appreciate it!

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 4 years ago

      Yes, we have a great dealer there. Talk to Mike, he’ll take good care of you!

      Elk Grove Acura
      8585 Laguna Grove Dr. (Elk Grove Auto Mall)
      Elk Grove, CA 95757

      Mike Franz: General Manager

      mfranz@lasherauto.com
      916.405.2634

      THANKS for listening to the show!

      Jerry Reynolds “The Car Pro”
      President, Car Pro Radio Networks
      Owner, KPIR 1420 AM Granbury, TX

  2. John Ruggles 4 years ago

    I’m looking for a truck to pull a goose neck trailer with 2 horses. We typically travel 1-200 miles. Do I need a 3/4 ton truck or can I use a 1/2 ton? I expect to buy a used 07 or 08.

    Thanks

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 4 years ago

      I need to know what the trailer loaded weighs, that’s very important. Email me, jerry@carproshow.com and I’ll try to help.

      Jerry Reynolds “The Car Pro”
      President, Car Pro Radio Networks

  3. Sanjay 4 years ago

    Hi Jerry,

    I got myself a Ecoboost F150. I purchased the vehicle and I drive around 40K miles a year. Can you please guide me if buying a F250 diesel will be better option for long run in life. I want to buy one that I do not have to change. I am confused, please help.

    Thanks

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 4 years ago

      Good to hear from you. Are you hauling or towing anything?

      Jerry Reynolds “The Car Pro”
      President, Car Pro Radio Networks

  4. Emilio R Cardona, MD 4 years ago

    Dear Jerry: I have had an Acura MDX since 2004, it has 200,000 miles, running very well. I want to give it to one of my children. I want to buy another SUV but I want a reliable vehicle and a durable one like the one I have. Good mileage is important. I am not convinced of the new MDX. I have considered a diesel. I drive 25000 miles a year. Do you have any advice?

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 4 years ago

      Good to hear from you. I don’t know of any small diesel SUVs out there, but my favorites are Ford Escape, Honda CRV, Toyota RAV, and Chevy Equinox.

      I have good dealers for them all, just click here:

      https://www.carprousa.com/car-pro-approved-dealers/

      THANKS for listening to the show.

      Jerry Reynolds “The Car Pro”
      President, Car Pro Radio Networks

  5. Mark Kaping 4 years ago

    Hi Jerry, I planning on moving from Arizona to North Dakota, which means my 2001 Dakota R/T will be on blocks for most of the year. I’m thinking about buying a Ram with a echo/diesel. I haul about 500lb of equipment in my truck, and sometimes pull a utility trailer 200 miles on the weekends. Is this a good choice, or do you have better ideas?

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 4 years ago

      Good to hear from you! It’s a bit early for me to tell on the Ram 1500 diesel. I have not driven it and there is just no history so far.

      Stay tuned to the show and newsletter, when I have info to share, I’ll let everyone know. THANKS for listening to the show.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  6. Jeff Berlat 4 years ago

    Will you be driving the diesel Audi Q5 when it comes out? Do you have an Audi dealer in Houston? We are really thinking about doing the European Delivery and drive it around Germany.

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 4 years ago

      I’m sure I’ll have one at some point soon.
      I have a great dealer, here you go:
      Audi North of Houston
      17825 North Freeway
      (I 45 at FM 1960)
      Houston, TX 77090
      Tiffany Bishop – Car Pro Specialist
      tbishop@sewell.com
      281.214.0500

      Thanks for listening to the show!
      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  7. Ron Mancuso 4 years ago

    Jerry,
    This dilemma is hitting home. I currently have a 2004 Acura TL with 226K miles and I am thinking that I need to make a move! I am caught in the diesel / gas quandary. Based on the age of my car, you can see I am in the 22,000 – 25,000 miles per year arena. This is my work car and I travel to my office which is about 30 miles from home each day at speeds averaging 50 MPH with a combination of freeway type and city type driving. I also travel from the Sacramento area to the Fresno and Bakersfield areas at least once a month.
    I am looking at two cars right now. 1) Toyota Avalon XLE Touring and 2) Volkswagen Passat TDI Premium. I’m not sure if the mileage I turn completely justifies a diesel nor can I completely discount the diesel. LOVE the looks and reliability of the Toyota. LOVE the fuel mileage of the VW but we have never owned one.
    My wife and I are HUGE fans of the show and we value your opinion. What are your thoughts?

    All the best,
    Ron & Karen Mancuso

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 4 years ago

      Guys, thanks for listening to the show. You are great diesel candidates actually. You need good mileage (43-45 MPG highway) and you keep a car a long time. I think Passat diesel is the absolute right choice. I think you’d love it and it’s a great value considering how long it will last.

      Talk to David Pilch, the GM at Niello VW and tell him I sent you, you’ll be in good hands!

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  8. Curtis 4 years ago

    Hi Jerry, Glad I found you! I have my mind set on a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland and trying to decide between gas or diesel. Any thoughts?

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 4 years ago

      Good to have you in the family. I have not had the Jeep diesel yet, but hope to soon. My gut feel is it will be a good one, but I need more info before recommending it.

      FOR SURE the gas engines are good, that’s a safe bet! If you can wait a little bit, I’m sure I’ll have one before long. THANKS for listening to the show!

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  9. Vicki 4 years ago

    Jerry I have a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer over 10000 miles. I would love to buy another Mountaineer but I know they stop making them I believe in 2011. Is there some how I could find one near me, I live outside Houston.

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 4 years ago

      Good to hear from you and thanks for listening to the show. You won’t find a new Mountaineer, but you might find a low mileage used one at Bayway Lincoln. They are awesome to my listeners. Click: https://www.carprousa.com/dealer/bayway-lincoln

      If you don’t find one, consider Explorer too, they are the same vehicles and I have great connections at Lone Star Ford.

      GOOD LUCK!

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  10. Mike Stratman 3 years ago

    Jerry, I am a fishing guide in Northern California and I am currently driving a 2006 F150 with 105K on the odometer. My mechanic said the ball joints are starting to go and I think (?) it’s time for a new (used) truck. Should I go diesel or gas this time around? I extensively tow a couple of boats and a travel trailer, none of which is heavier than 3500 lbs. I also spend a bunch of time driving on very rough roads and river gravel bars. Are there any year/models you recommend or think I should steer clear of? Thanks.

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 3 years ago

      Good to hear from you. An F250 is overkill for you, I’d go with an F150 4×4, it’ll do the job, and be a much more enjoyable ride and drive. I’d go with a 2010 or newer, get the V8 and you should be fine.

      Talk to Cale Wood, one of the Owners at Elk Grove Ford, and he’ll take super care of you, just tell him I sent you.

      THANKS for listening to the show.

      Elk Grove Ford
      9645 Auto Center Dr.
      Elk Grove, CA 95757

      Cale Wood – General Sales Manager/Partner
      clw4531@aol.com
      916.478.7000

      Rachel Wood – Sales Mgr./Partner rachel@elkgroveford.com

      Jerry Reynolds “The Car Pro”
      President, Car Pro Radio Networks

  11. Rocky Pfeffer 3 years ago

    Jerry …… I have a 2002 QX4 Infiniti with 140k, feels as though the transfer case is starting to have an issue. New vibration between 45 and 60 mph.
    So time for a new ride I like the size of the Q, thinking something about two years old, that gets better mileage. Hahahahahaha that won’t be hard, and its been a great SUV I got it in 04 for 22k and I can really get a lot of stuff in it when you knock down the back seats. Do not need third row seats.
    Your recommendation please?
    Love listening to your show, I dialed over 100 times last week trying to get on, keep up the great performances.
    All The Best ~ Rocky

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 3 years ago

      Good to hear from you Rocky. Take a look at either a Lexus RX or a Cadillac SRX, either would fit the bill for you. Not sure which market you listen to the show from, but I can probably help with good dealers for both. You can let me know at jerry@carproshow.com

      THANKS for listening to the show.

      Jerry Reynolds “The Car Pro”
      President, Car Pro Radio Networks

  12. Don 3 years ago

    Jerry, I am looking to do expediting work in a van with loads usually small [200-500 lbs.] but could go as high as 1500 lbs. I am not sure of how many miles per year yet but I,m sure it will be high. Is there a preferred van for this type of work [Ford, Nissan etc.] and is a diesel a better choice? Listen to your show on WTAM 1100 in Cleveland on Saturday afternoons. Thank You.

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 3 years ago

      Thanks for listening to the show. I would go with the Ford E250 or E350, either will do the job. The E350 will carry more weight but it might be overkill. I like the diesel, but for most of you loads, a V8 will do it.

      Speak to my friend Rich, he will probably have something that will work for you. Get his opinion on if a Transit Connect might work, if so, they get great mileage. I wish you the best.

      Klaben Ford Lincoln Kent
      1089 W. Main St.
      Kent, OH 44240
      330.673.3139
      http://www.klaben.com

      Rich Klaben – Owner / GM
      rgklaben2@klaben.com
      330.673.3139

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  13. Jesse 3 years ago

    I own a dry ice distribution company and drive about 50,000 miles a year. I have owned 6 diesels and 2 gas trucks both box and flatbeds. I have had much more luck with the two gas trucks, both F350’s one with the 5.4 v8 and the other with the 6.8 v10. Neather of them had any engine problems with 250k and 205k respectively upon sale. I can’t say the same for the diesels, mostly Ford have had a lot of costly problems, injectors, radiators, etc. The maintenance has been slightly higher but the repairs have been significantly higher including a full motor replacement at a cost of $16,900. The mileage on the diesels has been better however not what it used to be and the new.emission systems cause a ton of problems. I would recommend most drivers to stick with gas trucks unless they tow heavy and often.

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 3 years ago

      Good to hear from you and thanks for adding to the debate. Everyone’s case is different and you are correct about previous versions of the Ford diesels. That all changed in 2011 when Ford start making their own diesel for the first time. The fuel economy has changed a lot since then AS LONG AS people get the right rear-end ratio. I try to educate people on this every week.

      THANKS for writing and thanks for listening to the show.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  14. phil g 3 years ago

    hi jerry thinking about getting a motor home new 16 to 18 foot what diesel engine would you recommend and rear end ratio?

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 3 years ago

      Phil, I’d get the 6.7 liter Ford, and I think a 3:73 rear end will do just fine, it’s a good combination. Let me know if I can help further!

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  15. vera holloway 3 years ago

    I currently drive a06 AcuraMDX with 168K miles it has been a great car,but my husband wants me to consider the 14 Jeep summit diesel or the VW toregh diesel I have test driven both and find them OK.which do you think would be better. And what dealership do you recommend. I know this sounds odd but I was hopping to get a red car or something other than black,silver or white. Does VW come inanyother color? Love your show try not to miss it.

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 3 years ago

      Vera, good to hear from you! I like both SUVs, but they are quite different. The Grand Cherokee is more of a traditional SUV, while the VW is more of a luxury SUV. Quality wise, both are great. I lean to the VW only because the TDI engine has a lot of history and has been great.

      Email me and tell me where you are located and I’ll try to recommend dealers for both: jerry@CarProShow.com

      Thanks for listening to the show!

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  16. Jerry Ellis 3 years ago

    I am interested in diesel SUV’s, not to large (presently I have a 2012 GLK350 Mercedes gas with 16,000 miles on it. I would appreciate your recommendation of available diesel SUV’s in this size.

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 3 years ago

      There are quite a few actually. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is great, Audi Q5, BMW X5, VW Touareg, and Porsche Cayenne.

      If I can help, email me from the website and let me know which market you listen to the show from.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  17. Chip Slade 3 years ago

    Jerry, I love it when I get to listen to your show. I’ve been a Mercedes believer since surviving a wreck back in ’04. We have an ’08 E320 Bluetec that we just love. We keep cars for at least 10 years and its time for a new SUV. We are trading our ’03 MDX Touring with 160K and are seriously looking at the MB 2015 ML250. This new(?) small diesel has me a bit concerned. Do you have any thoughts on power/performance? I haven’t been able to test drive yet. If not this, are there any other luxury diesel SUV’s of similar size that will favorable compare with this $62K car (with options)? We live out in the country so we do tend to do a lot of highway driving for grandkid visits, etc. Certainly look forward to your advice.

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 3 years ago

      Chip, I have not driven it yet, but I know MB would not bring out a new Blue Tec if they were not 100% sure about it. I have no concerns at all. Just for comparison purposes, look at the Audi Q5 with the TDI, it’s a heck of an engine too.

      Thanks for listening to the show, if you need a good dealer, click: https://www.carprousa.com/car-pro-approved-dealers/

      Remember too, you can always podcast the show from the website.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  18. Wayne Ayer 3 years ago

    Hi Jerry,
    Long time listener.
    I need a 40+ miles to the gallon car. I’m 6′ 3″ don’t want something too small.
    I’m in South Austin, Texas and didn’t like talking to VW South. I hear good things about Toyota and Nissan. You gave a great review for Passat Diesel. Help please. Just need the mileage and reasonable price.

    Thanks

  19. Jim Giles 3 years ago

    We are interested in a Volkswagen Jetta Stationwagen TDI. We will be trading in our dodge ram megacab 2500 diesel. We have family that live in east Texas area and we travel to see them. What are your thoughts and have you driven a jetta yet? Thanks for your input. By the way, I listen to you on the Houston station.

  20. Nik k 3 years ago

    Hi jerry! My father in law currently drives a 2006 MB E320 CDI. He’s thinking of upgrading to a 2012 MB E350 blutec. But he’s hear rumors of it not being as reliable as the E320 CDI. Is this true? Do you have any feedback on the E350 Bluetec?

    Thanks.

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 3 years ago

      My experience with the E350 Blue Tec has been exceptional, and I’ve heard from a ton of people who own them. I can get online and find bad things about every car ever built. Sadly, all the super happy owners don’t take the time to post it online.

      I think it’s a great choice. Check to website to see if we have a MB Dealer near you! Thanks for listening.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  21. Lance 3 years ago

    Hi Jerry-
    I am looking to purchase a rather large 5th wheel trailer, 42′, and live in it full time. I was hoping to get your input on what size truck I should go with as well as your thoughts on diesel or gas engine. The trailer specs are as follows:
    Hitch weight: 3,000 lbs
    Dry weight: 13,800 lbs
    Gross weight: 16,000 lbs
    Cargo weight: 2,012 lbs
    Axle weight: 14,000 lbs

    Thank you very much,
    Lance

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 3 years ago

      Lance, good to hear from you. I would go with a F350 Diesel Dually 4×4, it’ll do the job well and it’s a great truck.

      Let me know where you are located, I’ll recommend a good dealer.

      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

  22. Richard 3 years ago

    My daughter is looking to replace her 2005 Jetta gas with either diesel or gas. She drives about 15,000 miles per year.

    I am a fan of diesel … Why is VW using the 1.8T in all but their entry level Jettas?

    Between the Jetta and Passat with diesel or gas … which do you recommend?

    Thanks,
    Richard

    • Author
      Michele Sanders 3 years ago

      Richard, I will always favor the diesel for longevity of engine, and for the fuel economy. Resale value is good too. I would go with the TDI. GOOD LUCK and thanks for listening.
      Jerry Reynolds, President
      Car Pro Radio Network

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