The ever increasing price of petrol is leading many drivers to consider cutting down on motoring costs by switching to either a diesel engine or a hybrid car.
Diesel fuel is usually more expensive to buy than petrol litre for litre, but diesel engines run more economically under certain conditions.
A diesel engine is most efficient on longer journeys, like a motorway trip. Short journeys with lots of stopping and starting can use as much fuel as a petrol engine, or more, and can even damage the engine.
Diesel engine technology has been around for decades, so that the latest generation has been improved and refined considerably. There’s no shortage of new and used cars on the market, and the stigma that diesel engines are noisy and dirty is a thing of the past.
A hybrid car has two sources of power, one a conventional petrol engine, one an electric motor. The motor’s battery can be charged at home or at a charging point, found in some public and commercial car parks, and it also regains power from the energy expended when you brake.
Hybrid cars are often the choice of drivers who are as concerned about the environment as they are with saving money.
They are a recent innovation, but although the technology is still in its infancy, big advances have already been made, with each generation of hybrid cheaper and more efficient than the last.
More manufacturers are investing in the technology, so you will see more hybrids on trade plates than before.
Second hand hybrid cars are starting to appear in the motor trade, but do read some reviews and do a little research before purchasing, since an older hybrid may be cheaper to buy but less cost effective on the road.
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This new technology still costs more than a car with a conventional petrol engine, although savings can be made in the long term.
As well as the money saved by charging a battery, which is often free in car parks and cheap to do at home, many councils and private organisations allow free parking in designated spaces to electric or hybrid cars which can plug in to a charging socket, saving you even more.
Electric motors are more efficient over short distances, for instance in city traffic. For longer journeys on faster roads, it is likely that you will be using petrol most of the way.
Check your insurance policy, too. Some insurance firms charge more for insuring a hybrid, since a more complicated engine can be more expensive to repair if there is a problem. Other companies, however, offer a reduced premium on hybrid cars as an incentive to own a more environmentally friendly vehicle.
With oil prices continuing to rise, and oil itself becoming increasingly rare, it is likely we will see more cars running on alternative fuels in the future, whether this is solar power, vegetable based oils, or something else. For now, a diesel or hybrid car is a good choice.