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The future of diesel cars

Kasey Cassells
Written by Kasey Cassells, Senior content editor

Edited by Samantha Downes, Content Writer, 1 October 2020

With attitudes and legislation towards diesel fuel changing, what does the future hold for diesel cars?
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The future of diesel cars

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Should I buy a diesel car?

Find out what changing attitudes and legislation towards diesel fuel could mean for the future of diesel cars

What will happen to diesel cars?

The UK government has announced plans to ensure all new cars are "effectively zero emission" by 2040. 

  • this could include a more ambitious plan to ban the sale of new all petrol and diesel cars by as early as 2035.

  • while the proposed changes are still some years away, the shorter-term future of diesel-fuelled cars seems uncertain

  • until a ban comes into force you can save money by shopping around car insurance 

Should you buy a diesel car?

The government proposals are just some of the latest actions demonstrating a changing attitude towards diesel engines. 

In July 2020 the number of diesel vehicles registered dropped 25.9% to 28,884 compared to 39,903 the same month in 2019. 

According to The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), registrations of diesel vehicles have dropped by 60% so far in 2020. This comes amid controversy around the fuel and its effect on the environment.

  • this compares with a drop, in registrations of petrol vehicles of 47.5% and an increase of 161% for battery operated electric vehicles

When will diesel cars be banned in the UK?

Although an outright ban is not yet in place, legislation has been introduced that does make owning a diesel car more expensive. In other countries, as we will see, some governments have pledged to ban diesel vehicles by 2025.

The Covid-19 pandemic appears to have sped up some of these proposed changes.

Ultra Low Emission Zone and congestion charge

  • a new T-Charge, the t is for toxicity, came into force in London in October 2017 targeting diesel vehicles

  • in London this charge is now a £12.50 daily charge for driving the most polluting vehicles in certain parts of the city 

  • this is in addition to the daily £11.50 Congestion Charge

  • this applies to designated parts of the city that form part of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and operates 24 hours a day every day except Christmas Day

Temporary increase to the T-Charge during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, from 22 June 2020, the Congestion Charge will temporarily increase to £15 and hours will be extended, operating from 7am to 10pm seven days a week.

This is part of the government and Transport for London’s attempt to get more people walking or cycling to work. 

The mayors of Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City have pledged to ban diesel vehicles from their respective cities by 2025.

Following a further change to the rules on tax and electric cars in April 2020, all electric cars with zero emissions are now exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty (also known as car tax), but some petrol and diesel car owners will have to pay a higher rate.

Comprehensive car insurance
The future of diesel cars

Is buying a diesel car a good idea in 2020?

The latest actions to discourage motorists from using diesel prove the tide has turned against the fuel in recent years but there are still a large number of diesel cars being sold and there is a second-hand market for diesel cars.

This is because:

  • road tax incentives introduced by the government from 2001 made diesel cars more popular

  • at the time, diesel cars were cheaper to run, cheaper to tax, and considered to be better for the environment than petrol cars

Why are there so many diesel cars on the roads?

The environmental focus in the early 2000s was to reduce carbon emissions, which led to a push away from petrol and towards diesel.

  • between 2000 and 2017, the number of licensed cars in the UK increased from 24.4 million to 31.2 million due to population growth and improved road infrastructure, 

  • demand for diesel cars increased significantly, 

  • the percentage of diesel engines grew from 12.9% (3.2 million) to 39.7% (12.4 million) during these 17 years

Why are diesel cars bad for the environment?

While CO2 emissions are indeed lower from diesel cars than from petrol cars, diesel engines produce four times as much nitrogen dioxide and 22 times more particulates. 

  • according to the European Environment Agency, nitrogen oxide emissions contribute to almost 12,000 deaths per year in the UK alone

  • recently Euro Standards were brought into place to limit the emissions from vehicles. But it emerged that the ‘real world’ emissions of diesel engines were higher than indicated in lab tests

VW and Mercedes-Benz and diesel car emissions

The Volkswagen emissions scandal in 2015 marked a turning point in attitudes towards diesel fuel. 

It emerged that the manufacturer had intentionally programmed the engines of its diesel cars to pass emissions tests, despite the cars’ real-world emissions significantly exceeding set limits.

In 2020 the manufacturers of Mercedes Benz, Daimler AG, was ordered to pay compensation to owners of its cars following issues with diesel emissions. The amount of compensation is being decided.

Diesel cars in the UK

In the UK, the emphasis and incentives from the government has been to encourage people to move towards buying greener cars by offering tax breaks to owners of new and existing electric vehicles

Is it safe to buy a diesel car in 2020?

It would seem the case for buying a diesel-fuelled car is waning as from April 2020, all electric cars became exempt from car tax. 

While the owners of some of the most polluting diesel vehicles might have to pay £2,175 for the first year, they register the vehicle. After that, it's £150 a year to tax a petrol or diesel car.

  • while diesel cars are still a mainstream option, their popularity has been falling. 

  • the government has been trying to steer drivers away from diesel fuel by scrapping car tax on new electric vehicles and increasing the cost for some petrol and diesel vehicle owners.

Should I buy a second-hand diesel car

Most manufacturers are still producing diesel models as a standard option, but car companies are taking note of the shifting attitude towards the fuel. 

So, it’s likely a second-hand version of a diesel car may soon be all that is on offer.

  • carmakers including Toyota, Volvo, Subaru, Suzuki, Bentley and Mitsubishi have already stopped the sale of new diesel cars, or have announced plans to do 

  • others have announced plans to phase out diesel options in new vehicles or have halted the development of new diesel engines.

When will diesel cars be banned?

There has not been an outright ban as there are so many diesel cars still on the roads but if legislation and attitudes continue to change, demand for used diesel cars could plummet in years to come.

Should I buy a diesel car?

You may be weighing up the appeal of diesel cars versus petrol, or even thinking about switching to an electric car in the future, especially if the government introduces further incentives for greener cars.

  • environmental factors and emissions figures will also provide food for thought for many people when deciding between diesel and alternative fuels for their next car. 

  • the future of diesel cars in the UK is likely to be a decline in demand for these types of vehicles and an increasing popularity of electric cars over diesel or petrol engines.

  • if you own a diesel car, you may decide to keep it for a while, even though the car tax rates are much higher than greener vehicles

In order to keep costs as low as possible, you can shop around for diesel car insurance or try and reduce your annual car insurance premium.

How to save on your car insurance 

Be experienced

Experienced drivers and have a good driving record can still get a good deal on their insurance. If you are not an experienced driver you can cut car insurance costs by adding a named driver who is older and more experienced to the policy. 

Taking a Pass Plus course if you are a new driver may also reduce your premiums but you will need to check with the insurer first.

The type of car you drive

Having a car with is the type of car you drive, with the car’s speed, security features, and value all playing a big part in increasing the cost of your insurance.

Increase your voluntary excess 

This will result in a cheaper monthly premium. Before you take out car insurance make sure you can afford any voluntary excess. This excess is in addition to the compulsory excess set by your insurance provider. This is what you would have to pay if you ever have to claim. 

Pay upfront 

Pay for your insurance in one go if you can. Spreading the cost of your car insurance over 12 monthly payments may seem cheaper but remember you will be paying interest on top of the amount you pay towards your car insurance premium.    

Drive less

Limiting your miles makes you less of an insurance risk. Simply because you are reducing your risk of having an accident. When you take out your car insurance policy the insurer always asks for an estimate of your maximum annual mileage. You need to try and you’re your mileage low, although you need to be realistic as to how much you will drive. 

Extra security

Having an alarm or immobiliser is considered a theft deterrent and by deterring car thieves you can reduce your car insurance. Not all insurers will offer this, so check first.

Consider black box or telematics insurance 

Black box, or telematics, insurance can help reduce your car insurance over a period of time. 

A small device, the black box is installed in your car. 

  • this then measures how fast you driver, when you brake, what time of day you drive how fast you accelerate and how you drive around corners

  • some black boxes include an app which you can access on your phone

  • if you drive safely you may be rewarded with cheaper monthly premiums

Reduce the cost of car insurance when you don’t own a car

You don’t need to own car to get car insurance. Unlike a full car insurance policy, you won’t build up a no claims bonus, but it does mean you can drive someone else’s car, as long as you have their permission. If you are only planning on borrowing a car you can also compare quotes for short-term or temporary car insurance

If you need to insure several cars search multi-car insurance policies.

Multi insurance might also be suitable:

  • if you own more than one car

  • if you’re a family with more than one driver

  • if you’re a couple with more than one vehicle 

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