Diesel Total Cost of Ownership Bests Gasoline Vehicles: Study

Jason Siu
by Jason Siu

There are a lot of hidden benefits to owning a diesel vehicle, according to a recent study.

The managing director of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute’s Automotive Futures group, Bruce Belzowski, compared thousands of vehicles sold at auctions with both gasoline and diesel variants, analyzing their total cost of ownership. The study found that when taking into account depreciation, fuel costs, repairs, maintenance, insurance, fees and taxes, owning a diesel can be anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 cheaper over three to five years than its gasoline-powered counterpart.

This is despite the fact that diesel engines typically cost a premium when new, but resale values after three years have diesel passenger cars and SUVs being 30 to 50 percent higher. That number increases for medium-duty diesel pickup trucks, which are 60 to 70 percent higher. Resale values are even higher after five years of ownership.

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Fuel costs are also noticeably lower, with passenger car and SUV diesel owners paying 12 to 27 percent less and truck owners saving 4 to 8 percent over three- and five-year periods.

Diesel vehicles were more expensive when it came to the cost of insurance, repairs, maintenance, fees and taxes, but lower depreciation values and fuel costs resulted in a lower total cost of ownership.

“Though there are some exceptions to these positive results for some of the diesel versions of vehicles from a total-cost-of-ownership perspective, the overall direction of the results supports the idea that diesel vehicles are competitive within the U.S. market,” Belzowski said. “In particular, the idea that buyers can get a return on their initial higher investment in a diesel vehicle within three years is a very positive sign, considering new buyers tend to own their vehicles for an average of three-to-five years.”

[Source: University of Michigan Transportation Institute]

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Jason Siu
Jason Siu

Jason Siu began his career in automotive journalism in 2003 with Modified Magazine, a property previously held by VerticalScope. As the West Coast Editor, he played a pivotal role while also extending his expertise to Modified Luxury & Exotics and Modified Mustangs. Beyond his editorial work, Jason authored two notable Cartech books. His tenure at AutoGuide.com saw him immersed in the daily news cycle, yet his passion for hands-on evaluation led him to focus on testing and product reviews, offering well-rounded recommendations to AutoGuide readers. Currently, as the Content Director for VerticalScope, Jason spearheads the content strategy for an array of online publications, a role that has him at the helm of ensuring quality and consistency across the board.

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2 of 3 comments
  • Danwat1234 Danwat1234 on Aug 27, 2015

    OK but what if you buy used where the car's value has already flattened out? I'd get a used electric or plugin hybrid car or a cheap gas car.

  • Thomas Thomas on Apr 02, 2016

    Not a very good article, it has no numbers to back its claims and the Toyota Tacoma which is a gas motor was voted by Vincentric as the best vehicle on the planet to holds its resale. Not just for trucks but for every vehicle on the planet including diesel and the Tundra is not far behind. Also note that diesels cost more to maintain and need def fluid and cost more to repair. They are also a big problem for pollution and we can see this right now in the UK as government has admitted to guilt and being wrong in supporting diesel as a formidable option. The emissions produce chemicals and soot that penetrate your body and cause birth defects, brain cancers and respiratory problems.