April 18

Should I Buy a Diesel Vehicle?

Auto Repair


Mark: Hi it’s Mark from Top Local Lead Gen, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 16 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers, how’re you doing Bernie?

Bernie: I’m doing very well.

Mark: So diesels, lots of controversy going on with diesels these days. I guess our question is should I buy a diesel vehicle and I guess as an owner of a Volkswagen TDI, I’m interested to hear what you have to say. Should someone look at buying a diesel vehicle right now?

Bernie: Well I think, what you really need to do before you buy a diesel vehicle is look at what you want to use the car for. Before we talk about that, let’s just look at some of the advantages of diesel engines. First of all, fuel economy in diesels is amazing for any given size engine: diesel, I believe is 20-30% more efficient than a gasoline engine. Also, these days diesel fuel is cheaper, it wasn’t that way a while ago but it is now, so you pay less to fill the tank as well. A few other advantages of diesel: traditionally diesel used to be very reliable, I’d say that these days it’s not quite as reliable, but it used to be very reliable. When gasoline engines needed tune-ups, diesels just needed oil changes and fuel filters and air filters and they just kept on going. Also if you have a truck, towing and hauling capacity of a diesel is far superior to a gasoline engine. It’s why, trains, ships, large industrial engines and trucks all use diesel. They are superior for heavy load performance.

Mark: So it sounds like the advantages outweigh some of the disadvantages, but what are some of the disadvantages?

Bernie: Well, disadvantages of diesel, generally you pay more money to buy a diesel engine vehicle. Now I did a little bit of research before I did this post and I looked at a few cars, a couple different lines of cars that sell diesels, and I looked at trucks. It seems like for a truck, you’ll probably pay eight or ten thousand dollars more to buy a diesel model truck; but for a car, I looked at the Mercedes GL models, and their diesel is actually the cheapest model. That kind of surprised me, but I think they have the diesel as their entry level model and then they start putting the larger engine V8’s and fancy other options and the AMG packages to boost the price. Volkswagen as well, you’ve had experience with the Volkswagen TDI, I believe that the diesel option was more money than buying the gasoline version, not a lot but a little bit more money, so you’ve got the upfront cost. The other disadvantage that I think with the diesels is that they’re not as reliable as they used to be. Some are really good, but others have a lot of problems and when things do go wrong with the diesel they cost a lot of money to fix. You’re not looking at a little $300 dollar repair bill, a lot of times it may be a thousand or two thousand dollars or more, so the repair bills can be substantial in a diesel.

Now one of the advantages if you buy a diesel vehicle is that it often has a higher resale value, so say if you spent $10,000 dollar more on that Ford F350 truck with the diesel over the gas, chances are a few years down the road when you sell it, you’ll get more money for that vehicle because it’s a diesel than a gas motor.

Mark: So on balance, maybe the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, but what else? What also should factor in to your choice about whether you buy a diesel of a petrol fuel vehicle?


Jeep Liberty Diesel - Top of cylinder head showing rocker arms and valves

Bernie: Excellent question. I think the idea it imporatant to look at usage. What do you want to use the vehicle for? I meet many people who buy diesel vehicles who probably shouldn’t have bought then in the first place. Just an example and I know that you live in Langley, you drive in to Vancouver quite often, maybe not every day but you’re the perfect person to own a diesel vehicle because your trips are long, they’re lengthy, the engine has time to warm up, you get good fuel economy and you’re moving; generally that trip is a moving all the time trip. I live four minutes from my work, it’d be silly for me to have a diesel. My gasoline engine barely gets warm from driving from Burkeville to Marpole. So it would be kind of silly for me to have a diesel because I’d have to end up, to take good care of that engine leave it sitting and idling for another 10 or 15 minutes just to get the engine warmed up. So it really depends on how you use the vehicle. Also with trucks, I meet many people, actually they’re mostly men and they have a thing about owning a diesel. It’s a guy thing: they are attracted to that noise and sound and the largeness of the truck. A lot of guys that buy these trucks, I’ll say Ford’s in particular have a lot of problems, and after some repair bills of a thousand or two, they get so pissed off with the truck they end up selling it and a lot of them end up buying a gasoline powered F150 truck; which is much more practical. It’s much more useful for every day, a lot less goes wrong.

But diesel is great if you need to haul heavy loads, it’s worth the extra money. If you’re hauling a boat, a trailer or you have a business where you’re hauling heavy loads, diesel’s great. So you really need to look at what you’re buying. Unless you just like spending tons of money on car repairs when your vehicle’s broken, but most people don’t like to do that.

Also we did a blog post about a month or two ago about a Mercedes that we had where the owner hadn’t changed the oil quite frequently but again it’s another example of perhaps not the right owner for a vehicle. A lot of the trips that this person did were short trips. It only had 50,000 kilometers on a six year old diesel powered vehicle, so that’s really very little usage. I didn’t quiz him entirely, but I have a feeling that his trips were extremely short so the engine never had time to warm up, in addition to that maybe not changing the oil when he should have, it ended up killing the engine early so had this person owned a gasoline powered engine, there would have been no problem, although again if they didn’t change the oil it would have been an issue but I think gasoline engines they’re a little more forgiving.

Mark: So, I have an interesting, another question do car sales people ever address people’s usage of a vehicle before they recommend a car?

Bernie: I have a feeling not,  they probably don’t think of these factors and I think if you’re out there selling a vehicle, it’s like oh yeah, great I can sell a diesel because it’s $10,000 more and I’m sure it’s more money in their pocket to sell it, the same with the Mercedes or the TDI Volkswagen, they’re just selling it on the benefit that it’s got great gas mileage. I would say that maybe a good salesman might ask but for the most part they would probably just be happy to sell them whatever they want to buy.

Mark: Well our experience was, we were test driving looking at potentially buying an SUV and we test drove I don’t know six, seven different brands, not one salesman asked us about our use case. That was not a part of the conversation ever and that’s multiple times, multiple test drives, multiple salesman at different dealerships so that’s not even in the equation, they just want to you know, sell you what you came into look at.

Bernie: Yeah, I think that’s true, it’s interesting, and this is a bit off the subject of diesels but this applies to hybrids as well. We have a client who bought a Toyota Prius a while ago and they drive it very little, it’s a 08 Prius it’s only got 60,000 kilometers, it’s got very little use: they’re very happy with the vehicle and not a lot’s gone wrong with it but when I think of the extra money that person paid for the Prius over what, you could have bought a Camry or something nicer for the same money. To me it’s kind of wasted on a person who’s just driving a small amount whereas I met a guy yesterday with a Highlander Hybrid, 3 years old, 180,000 kilometers. He drives 60,000k’s a year, now that’s the right kind of person for a hybrid because they’re using it all the time, it’s getting a lot of usage, they’re going to save the money on the fuel that the extra cost of the vehicle applies but a lot of people buy them for ideological reasons and I guess a lot of people bought Volkswagen TDI for ideological reasons too, you know, that they’re good on gas, and they’re good for the environment and we found out that at least one of those parts of the equation wasn’t quite right.


Engine compartment of F350 Super Duty featuring 6.4 Liter Power Stroke Diesel

Mark: Yeah, well that was our choice I mean we, I as you know I used to brag about the kind of mileage that we would get and still it’s amazing, it’s not as fun an experience knowing that we’re polluting the crap out of the environment right now. VW it trying to make it better, they’ve sent us these which are about $1,000 worth of credit cards to spend on, $500 we’ve got to spend at the dealer I don’t know what the heck I’m going to use that for, $500 I can spend wherever I want and that’s the start honestly, it’s, it’s going to cost them billions of dollars to fix their polluting diesels and that is a consideration I think that for all that performance you still get some issues. So what about biodiesel, what’s the, why wouldn’t I just be able to switch my car to biodiesel and fix the issue?

Bernie: I’m not an expert on biodiesel but what I do know is that we talked about this in the past is biodiesel really doesn’t reduce your NOx emissions that’s just a factor of the temperature of the combustion but it doesn’t really reduce your NOx emissions but it certainly does reduce CO and hydrocarbon emissions are much lower. Biodiesel is a more pleasant experience, we have customers who do run their diesels on biodiesel and even the smell of the exhaust is much nicer than a petroleum diesel especially when you one that burns vegetable oil. The smell of the exhaust is quite pleasant, especially in an older diesel.  Newer diesels have particulate filters so that you don’t smell the typical diesel stench. With biodiesel, there’s a little more maintenance, it can clog up your fuel filters a more frequently so you got to change them a more often but I think biodiesel is definitely a good way to go if you care about the environment.

Mark: Yeah, from what I’ve read, well I’ve run it in my previous generation vehicle and it was about 10 or 20% more power cause there’s a higher cetane rating in biodiesel so you actually get more power per liter or whatever and it is definitely, the car just feels a little, it likes it, it breathes a little easier, it runs a little easier. I don’t know, it might just all be in your head but other people commented on it as well, it wasn’t just me, so

Bernie: Yeah, I’ve hear that about biodiesels as well, it’s a little smoother and the engine runs a bit quieter.

Mark: Yeah, so if you’re looking for diesel expertise these are the guys to see, they know all the in’s and out’s of many different types of diesels, trucks, cars, you name it. Pawlikautomotive.com, tons of information on there including total frame off, rebuilds of Ford diesels or give Bernie a call for your next service 604-327-7112 Pawlik Automotive, they’re the guys. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thank you Mark.

For more about diesel engines click here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_engine

For another opinion on diesels click here http://www.edmunds.com/diesel/before-buy.html

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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