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Is a petrol car right for me?

Is a petrol car right for me?


There were experiments with steam and electric power before but let’s get real, the car as we know it came into being when Karl Benz made the first petrol-powered internal combustion automobile.

More than a century on, we’re pitching around in diesels, hybrids, electric vehicles and even hydrogen cars, but for the majority of the world petrol is still the default choice.

That’s the case in Europe – just, though a big push for diesel in the 2000s means that it still holds more than 40 per cent of the market, with petrol just ahead with around 55 per cent of the market.

But why should you consider a petrol vehicle for your next car, and what are the potential downsides? We take a look…

What’s your mileage?

Low mileage drivers, come on by. Of course, the ideal car for a quick jaunt into town is an electric or hybrid model, but these can be expensive and out of reach for a lot of people. Plus, there are very few electric superminis or city cars on the market – they just cost too much to manufacture – so buyers in these segments don’t have too much choice.

Petrol cars tend to be much cheaper than their diesel equivalents, so depending on how much you drive will dictate how quickly the increased fuel consumption will affect your finances.

Rear of Dacia Sandero driving on a road

For example, a 1.6-litre diesel Volkswagen Golf costs around £1,600 more than its petrol equivalent. For a high-mileage driver (according to Volkswagen’s official fuel consumption figures) the increased fuel economy of the diesel would be paid back in around 75,000 miles – or less than three years for someone covering 30,000 miles a year. But the average motorist in the UK does 12,000 miles a year, meaning the diesel would take more than six years to start paying for itself.

What type of journeys do you do?

Opting for a petrol for short runs is ideal. Unlike modern diesel engines, most petrols don’t have the same sort of sophisticated emissions control systems that become so easily clogged up on repeated short journeys from cold.

yellow Ford driving on a road

Petrol engines also warm up more quickly than diesel. This means that while their overall economy might be less, they reach their optimum operating temperature far more quickly. While a diesel may not be at its full efficiency until 30 minutes or so after starting, a petrol will likely manage it in half the time. This means that if you're just dashing around town, you might find a petrol even more efficient than a diesel.

Do you enjoy driving?

This is a contentious one. We’re not saying that electric, hybrid or even diesel vehicles can’t be enjoyable to drive – of course they can. But there’s a reason that the go-to phrase for a car enthusiast is a petrolhead.

A petrol engine fitted to a hot hatchback or a sports car is the ultimate way to enjoy yourself on the roads for not too much outlay. They’re zippy, reasonably cheap to run, and brilliant fun – everything you want for fun on a budget.

car surrounded by donut marks on the ground

At the high end, super-fast electric cars are beginning to blur the lines, but there’s still little to touch a screaming V8 or V12 petrol engine for sheer theatre.

In general, a petrol car – while it may be a little more tiring on long journeys or when heavily loaded – will be more fun to drive than its diesel equivalent due to improved engine response and lighter weight.

Can you afford it?

Probably. If you can’t afford a petrol car, you can’t afford a car – it’s the cheapest way to get on the roads in this country thanks to a glut of fantastic little city cars and superminis. The used market is awash with them, too.

Running a petrol car once you’ve actually bought it can be more expensive than equivalent powertrains. They’re the thirstiest kind of car you can buy, and thanks to higher carbon dioxide emissions they will also cost more to tax – most of the time.

man fueling a car with petrol

Insurance is less of a concern, and petrol cars aren’t any more or less reliable than diesel counterparts – so maintenance shouldn’t be a problem either.