Electric vs diesel vs petrol: How do they compare?

Choosing a new car can be overwhelming. There are so many different types and models available, where do you begin?

To help decide which type of car is best for you, we’ve assessed petrol, diesel and electric vehicles (EVs) against the most common purchasing considerations.


Vehicle value

EVs have been rapidly growing in popularity over the last several years, with an estimated 30,000 on UK roads in 2016 increasing to 690,000 in 2023. Government figures also show that battery and hybrid EVs now make up more than half of all new cars sold and fully electric car sales rose by 70% in 2021.

Despite this, EVs still make up a fraction of the overall vehicle ownership and so it’s not surprising that buying an electric vehicle tends to be more expensive than buying a petrol or diesel car. This cost difference can be quite large, and electric vehicles may not be possible for those sticking to a budget unless you opt for a used EV.

However, there are other factors that are worth considering. While petrol vehicles tend to be the cheapest to buy, their value depreciates more quickly than it does for diesel or electric options. At the other end of the scale, EVs retain value much more effectively.

In addition, the government has introduced a bill that means only electric vehicles will be sold from 2035 onwards. This is unlikely to affect the current buying cycle but does mean you’ll have to make the transition to electric at some point in the future.

Fuel costs

With both electricity and fuel costs subject to change, it can be hard to evaluate which will be more cost-effective in the long run.

As well as fluctuating costs, another large variant is the type of driving you’ll be doing. Generally speaking, electric vehicles are more economical in urban city environments, while a diesel car will be more efficient over long distances.

The best way to calculate the average cost of a journey that reflects current electricity and fuel prices is with a journey cost calculator Zap Map has a handy tool that allows you to compare the journey costs of different electric, petrol, and diesel models for a clearer picture.

Service and maintenance

It’s difficult to know which type of car will cost you more in servicing and maintenance, as the answer lies more in the make and model of the vehicle.

However, when things do go wrong, the costs to replace or repair diesel vehicles are usually more than they are for petrol equivalents. As a result, car insurance is often cheaper for petrol vehicles.

As electric vehicles don’t have combustion engines, they have fewer moving parts. Theoretically, this means there are fewer things that can go wrong. However, as they feature high levels of technology, which can be expensive to replace, their insurance costs can be much higher than for diesel and petrol vehicles.

When it comes to servicing and maintenance, we suggest you research the reliability of certain models. You can find lots of car reliability surveys over at WhatCar.


The range for each type of car can vary depending on the size of a vehicle’s fuel tank or battery. However, as a general rule, electric cars have a shorter range, with the average sitting at around 216 miles.

Filling up with fuel is generally easier for petrol and diesel vehicles too, with plenty of petrol stations available.

When it comes to EVs, most owners charge their cars at home via a specialised charging point. However, the number of public charging points has increased rapidly in recent years and continues to rise, which should help alleviate the range anxiety associated with electric vehicles. Zap Map provides an interactive map of all the charging points in the UK, which shows the extensive charging point infrastructure that now exists. Plus, many of the charge points found at motorway stations are rapid charge points that can boost a battery by up to 80% in as little as 30 minutes!

However, not all electric vehicles are compatible with rapid charge points. Plus, when it comes to day-to-day usage, a home charging point is all but a necessity for electric vehicles. For those who only have on-street parking, this means an electric vehicle isn’t an option.


It will come as no surprise to hear that electric vehicles are by far the most eco-friendly choice.

With no tail-pipe emissions, they’re a great way of reducing your carbon footprint and helping to tackle climate change. In fact, the government has created a number of initiatives to help encourage EV ownership including the EV ChargePoint grant, no road tax and no congestion charges.

In comparison, petrol and diesel vehicles release far more emissions. They are also subject to an emissions test, which can cause a car to fail an MOT.

It’s these environmental factors that have influenced the government’s decision to ban the sale of all diesel and petrol cars from 2035.


Love the feeling of instant acceleration whenever your foot touches the pedal? It may surprise you, but electric cars provide the best acceleration, with their motors creating instant torque. Many also have ‘one pedal’ driving modes that allow you to control both acceleration and deceleration with one pedal.

Diesel engines also produce high torque and accelerate quickly. However, their biggest strength is their life span, with diesel engines lasting much longer than petrol alternatives. They also tolerate higher mileage better.

Of course, nothing can match the sound of a petrol engine. For many car enthusiasts, the guttural sound of a petrol engine is irreplaceable. For others, the near-silent driving experience of an electric vehicle is more desirable.

When it comes to performance, there are certain differences which may influence your buying decision. However, unless you have very specific needs, you’ll more than likely find that each type of car will provide you with more than adequate performance.

Should I buy a diesel, petrol or electric car?

The best car for you will depend on your individual needs.

If you regularly complete long journeys, a diesel can prove more cost-effective than petrol. An electric car will cost even less but will require recharging along the way.

Electric cars are a great all-round choice as they have enough range for the average distance travelled per week, they’re eco-friendly and their charging costs are cheaper than filling a tank of fuel. However, they require a home charging point which isn’t possible for those who only have on-street parking, unless you have easy access to a rapid charging point and don’t generally require your car to be fully charged in the morning.

Some may simply love the driving experience of a petrol engine. It’s best to weigh up the factors in this article against your needs and select a vehicle type based on this.

You can discover more about electric vehicles over at our Electrification Hub.

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