Do diesels really save you money?

Analysis of Canadian diesel data reveals some surprising results

Published: January 26, 2017, 6:00 AM
Updated: September 26, 2018, 9:25 PM

2018 Ford F-150 Diesel - Diesel-powered

The inherent fuel-economy advantage of diesel engines, compared to their gasoline-fueled counterparts, is well known and it is one of the major selling points for diesel power.

But there is more to the cost of ownership than just the fuel used. Do diesels really save you money when all those costs are considered?

That’s a question asked and answered by Vincentric LLC, a privately held automotive data compilation and analysis firm headquartered in Bingham Farms, Michigan.

According to Vincentric’s most recent Canadian Diesel Analysis released today, 111 of the total 280 diesel vehicles analyzed, or just over 39%, were identified as having a lower total cost-of-ownership than their closest all-gasoline powered counterparts.

The 280 available diesel vehicles were categorized into three types: Passenger Cars (only 4 diesel models after Volkswagen Group models were withdrawn), SUVs, Crossover and Vans (56 diesel models), and Pickup Trucks – light-duty and heavy-duty (220 diesel models).

Total cost of ownership

To conduct the 2016 Canadian Diesel Analysis, Vincentric measured total-cost-of-ownership of vehicles using eight different cost factors: depreciation, fees & taxes, financing, fuel, insurance, maintenance, opportunity cost and repairs. The analysis assumed vehicle ownership for five years and 25,000 kilometres driven annually.

All four passenger car diesels (100%) showed lower total cost-of-ownership compared to their closest all-gasoline powered versions, and 35 of 56 SUVs, crossovers and vans, (62%) realized a cost advantage.

Ram 1500 Diesel - The victory marks the fourth time in six years the Ram 1500 has been named the overall winner of the Canadian Truck King Challenge. The Ram 1500, powered by the 5.6-litre Hemi V-8, earned this year’s title over 10 other entries with a collective score of 79.4%. It was also judged the best among four entries in the full-size ½-ton category. Ram also topped the field in the full-size ¾-ton category with the Ram 3500, powered by a 6.7-litre Cummins diesel V-8. It outscored the other two ¾-ton entries with a collective total of 77.0%. In the mid-size category, the all-new Honda Ridgeline took top honours with a collective score of 75.5%, while the Chevrolet Silverado 3500 was judged the best one-ton pickup, earning a collective score of 75.1%.

But only about one-third of the 220 diesel pickup truck models were found to have lower total-cost-of-ownership than their closest all-gasoline-powered alternatives. Of these 72 cost-effective diesel trucks, 52 were manufactured by Ford, and the remaining 20 by Ram.

Without exception, the diesel models all generated substantial savings in fuel costs – typically in the range of $4,000 to $6,000 over five years. But in most cases, those savings were more than offset by higher initial purchase prices that were not otherwise recovered.

Higher initial purchase prices

“Due to higher purchase prices, diesel vehicles generally have more expensive cost-of-ownership compared to their all-gas versions,” said Vincentric President David Wurster. “However, with better fuel economy, nearly 40% of diesel vehicles are showing cost savings.”

The analysis showed that the diesel vehicle with the highest overall cost savings was the Range Rover Diesel SUV, which was forecasted to save buyers more than $22,000 over five years of ownership.

Among passenger cars, the Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC 4matic sedan was the most cost effective, estimated to save more than $6,000 over five years.

On the other hand, in terms of overall cost of ownership, buyers of the GMC Sierra 2500 SLT would be better off choosing the gasoline powered engine which would help them save over $8,000 compared to the similarly equipped diesel.

In both those cases, the initial purchase price differential was the primary fctor in the cost savings realized or additional cost incurred. On the same basis, the favourable results for the Ford and Ram diesels resulted from their much lower initial cost premiums, compared to those for General Motors’ diesels.

Further information regarding this analysis is available at

Range Rover Diesel - Diesel-powered

Porsche Cayenne Diesel - 2015 Porsche Cayenne Diesel

Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Diesel - Diesel powered

BMW X3 Diesel - One of the most powerful vehicles on the drive, the diesel-powered Bimmer can create 280 lb-ft of torque to accelerate strongly and swiftly. In the city, though, its fuel consumption is rated at just 8.6 L/100 km, dropping to 6.9 on the highway. This is thanks to its all-aluminum 2.0L four cylinder engine, with an automatic start-stop system to keep it from wasting fuel waiting at traffic lights.

Diesel is back - It's been an interesting year for diesel, to say the least, but diesel has always been an exciting option in the truck market and Chevrolet wanted to show off its Colorado diesel truck on EcoRun.   The Colorado diesel has a new 2.8-litre Duramax turbo-diesel engine that produces 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque thanks to a high pressure common rail injection system. It has a maximum trailer rating of 3,943 kg.

Chevrolet Silverado 2500 Diesel - The Chevrolet Silverado LTZ 2500 4WD Crew Cab ($84,355 as tested) was powered by a 6.6-litre V-8 Duramax diesel coupled to a six-speed Allison automatic transmission. Like the Ram, the Chevy felt quite stable with the 10,000-pound trailer load hitched to its tail, although there did seem to be a bit more bounce than its rival. The interior was spacious with seats that felt like they’d be quite comfortable on a long road trip. The gauge layout was the best of the entries in its category, with good-sized analog gauges that were readily readable. The Silverado 2500 joined the Titan XD in the category’s runner-up spot, each earning 74.9%.