Gasoline, Diesel, Hybrid or Electric? Comparisons of Car Energy Prices


If youre in the market for a new car, you probably decided what features you wanted, along with the price. But did you consider how much it would cost to operate and maintain the car? Especially, did you compare energy costs on how the car is powered?

These days, there is a dizzying array of choices available gasoline powered cars, diesel, hybrids and all-electric cars. Each type of energy has its advantages and its disadvantages. While the final choice should of course depend largely on your personal circumstances, the cost of the energy to keep the engine running should definitely be included on your shopping list.


Gasoline has the advantage of being, at least for now, readily available. In most of the United States, gasoline is also relatively inexpensive, at least in comparison to places like Western Europe. Gasoline powered cars also carry lower up front price tags than their hybrid or electric cousins. And since gasoline cars are the norm, youll have the widest possible variety of colors, styles and available features.

However, gasoline prices fluctuate wildly, and can spike suddenly. In places like California, gas prices remain stubbornly high, despite decreased demand and other factors. There is also the maintenance to consider besides continually needing to fill the gas tank, youll need to change the oil, flush the radiator and maybe change the battery. If the predictions of Peak Oil triggering sustained sky high prices come to pass, you may also find yourself rationing trips because you cant afford the gas to get where you want to go.

For eco conscious drivers, owning a gasoline powered car can weigh on their consciences. It is no secret that emissions from gasoline powered cars contribute significantly to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is also true that whether you believe the theory of Peak Oil or not, as a fossil fuel, petroleum is a finite resource. Whether it is in one year, five years, fifty years or one hundred years, at some point the supply of accessible oil will be depleted.


Back in the day, diesel meant smelly, dirty smoke emissions and a very limited choice of auto models. However, things have changed, and these days diesel cars are clean burning and available in a variety of styles, with desirable features. Many models also feature power to spare, which is essential for highway driving. This is especially true of the turbo diesel models, which often feature especially powerful engines.

However, diesel models are generally moderately pricier than their gasoline powered relatives. In many areas, diesel fuel is also more expensive than gasoline, which is a reversal of the traditional order. If this trend continues, the cost of operating a diesel car could prove to be more expensive overall than operating a gas powered car. Diesel powered vehicles also share the problem of gasoline powered cars of depending on a fossil fuel to run, which may hold less appeal for eco conscious drivers.


Many eco conscious drivers choose hybrid cars in the hope that their choice has a positive impact on their environmental footprint. While that is generally true, the calculations are not as straightforward as you may wish to believe. In many ways, owning and operating a hybrid vehicle is more expensive than operating a gasoline powered car.

For instance, many hybrids carry significantly more expensive price tags than gasoline powered cars. These costs have been somewhat moderated in past years because of government subsidies and tax breaks. However, it is unrealistic to expect these subsidies to continue indefinitely. On the other hand, it is realistic to expect the price of production for hybrid cars to decrease.

Many car enthusiasts are lukewarm about the styling of many hybrid cars. The lack of power, especially on the highway, also leaves some drivers cold. On the other hand, some eco conscious drivers question whether hybrids are really “green,” given the possibility of spent batteries being shipped to countries like China rather than responsibly recycled. Others cite the fact that many electric grids obtain their power from coal fueled power plants, which adversely impacts the “green” credentials of hybrids.

Where hybrid cars really shine is in their day to day operating costs, which can be minuscule, or for owners who drive their cars mainly in town using only the electric motors, nearly nonexistent. Fluctuating gas prices are much less of an issue than for gas powered cars; the same applies to routine oil changes. For drivers who can afford the up front cost and who plan to hold onto their cars for a decade or longer, the cost of owning and operating a hybrid can eventually be reduced to an equivalent level of owning and operating a gas powered car.


Like hybrid cars, electric cars often carry a hefty price tag; thousands of dollars higher than their gas powered counterparts. This price range places them out of reach financially to many would-be owners. Electric powered cars also share the same challenges as hybrid cars potentially problematic disposal of their batteries, and indirect power from coal plants. Another challenge with all electric cars is their lack of range. Even the best electric cars must be recharged after less than 300 miles, and recharging requires several hours, and often overnight. While this is fine for city driving, its less than ideal for highway road trips.

However, luxury models such as the Tesla have shattered the drab, boxy image of many hybrid and electric cars. The Tesla looks like a sports car because lit is a sports car, with the looks and horsepower to back it up. In addition, especially in urban areas, charging stations are becoming much more common, so that its possible to drive from one urban area to the next, settle in for the night in your hotel room, and power up the car while you sleep. The range of all electric cars is also improving, so that it is realistic to expect that in the not too distant future, an electric car with a 500 mile range could hit the market.

For Further Reading

Bunkley, Nick. The New York Times: Payoff for Efficient Cars Takes Years
CarsDirect (No Author Listed): Electric Car Costs Versus Gasoline Versus Hybrids
Motavalli, Jim. Autoweek: Should I Buy a Hybrid When Gas Is So Cheap?
Ridelust (No Author Listed). Hybrid, Diesel or Electric What Woud You Choose?
Tuttle, Brad. Time. Even With Four Dollar Gas, Few Drivers Choose Electric Cars or Even Hybrids

Sam Jones the author is often asked how to do an energy price comparison. He recommends price comparison site where all of the main providers can be compared to find the best deals and cheapest tariffs


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