Petrol or Diesel – Which is best to lease?

Written by Kevin Blackmore

The glib answer is, of course, whichever is the best lease deal!

Smart answers aside, it’s important to choose the right car to suit your needs and requirements. If you only travel 5000 miles a year then a diesel-engined car is definitely not the correct car choice for you.

Likewise, if you travel more than 12,000 miles a year in your lease car, it’s likely that a diesel would be more economical and more suitable than a petrol car. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), diesel cars cover 60% more miles than petrol cars.


Why choose a diesel car?

Diesel has had a bad press recently largely to do with clean air and diesel emissions.

While the finger can be pointed at older and more polluting diesel cars, this poor reputation has been largely unfair to newer diesel cars.

Nevertheless, this has had an effect on the sales of diesel cars. The SMMT reports that registrations of diesel cars dropped by nearly 22% in 2019.

Despite the reputation for being more polluting, all new diesel lease cars must meet the new Euro 6 emission standards. This requires them to have special filters that capture 99% of the sooty particulates that diesel engines produce, while exhaust after-treatments reduce the emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx).

By January 2021, all diesel cars must also meet RDE2 emission standards. RDE stands for Real Driving Emissions, which means they have been tested on the road to meet the latest standards as well as in the laboratory. Some carmakers – such as Citroen, Peugeot, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and BMW – already have RDE2 diesel cars on sale that are readily available to lease.

Diesel cars that meet the RDE2 standard pay reduced Vehicle Excise Duty and reduced benefit in kind company car tax, making them particularly attractive to high mileage business users.

So there are plenty of financial benefits to choosing a diesel vehicle.

Another financial benefit is the fuel economy of diesel cars. They are very fuel-efficient so while diesel costs more at the fuel pumps, you won’t have to fill up so often. A diesel car can have over a 500 mile range before it requires refilling.

So diesel cars particularly suit long-distance drivers – for example if you travel plenty of miles on the motorway they are ideal – as well as rural drivers who may have to travel a long way to reach a city or urban centre.

Another good aspect of diesel cars is the amount of engine torque they produce. This is the ability to move forward from low engine speeds. It makes them relaxing to drive if you ‘drive on the torque’ (change gear at lower engine speeds) and also makes diesel cars ideal tow cars.

The latest Euro6 diesel engines also qualify to enter London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone and many other Low Emission Zones that are being introduced in cities around the UK.

Where diesel cars are much less suitable is if you drive very few miles, or your driving is mainly city-based. Diesels have something called a DPF – a diesel particulate filter – that collects the sooty particles and then burns them at very high temperatures.

To enable this to happen, diesels need long runs to fully warm up, otherwise, the filter can become clogged. Cleaning a clogged filter is expensive, so it’s really important to consider this in your choice of car.

Is diesel right for you? Check out our diesel lease deals.


Why choose a petrol car?

If you live, work and drive around cities or urban areas, then a petrol car is more suitable for your needs.

While diesel cars are good for long distances, petrol cars are more suitable for shorter journeys, especially if you are not ready to make the jump to an electric vehicle.

There are other advantages to choosing a petrol car:

The price of petrol at the fuel pumps is cheaper than diesel, while the cost of a similar petrol car is cheaper when compared with its diesel equivalent. This price difference is reflected in the monthly lease rentals where there can be a significant price gap.

Turbocharging technology has also had an impact on the size of petrol engine you need. For example, Ford’s 1.0 litre ecoboost engine powers both the Fiesta supermini and the Focus family hatchback. And it does both equally well. And with some verve and character.

Unlike diesel cars with lots of torque, the driving characteristics of petrol cars is more about the power and the smoothness of the acceleration. You will also find petrol engines quieter.

Where they differ distinctly from diesel cars is in fuel economy – diesel cars are significantly more economical – and in the amount of CO2 emissions they produce. CO2 emissions are considered one of the main pollutants responsible for global warming.

Diesel cars on average have CO2 emissions that are 15-20% lower than petrol cars. The rise in popularity of petrol cars and the declining sales of diesel cars, has been partially responsible for the rise in average CO2 emissions from cars. The SMMT reports that average CO2 emissions from cars increased by 2.9% in 2018 and by 2.7% in 2019.

If the lease rental costs of a lower emission plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) or a zero-emission electric vehicle are outside your budget, and if you are environmentally inclined, consider leasing a petrol car with lower CO2 emissions.

Is petrol right for you? Check out our petrol lease deals.

Petrol versus diesel cars – points to consider



  • Diesel cars are good for long-distance drivers
  • They are more economical and produce fewer CO2 emissions
  • They are relaxing to drive because of the diesel engine’s torque which also makes them good tow cars


  • Diesel cars tend to be more expensive to lease or buy than petrol cars
  • They are not suitable for low mileage drivers or where mainly used in city or urban environments
  • They are noisier than petrol cars



  • Petrol cars are good for low mileage drivers and town users
  • They generally cost less to lease or buy
  • They are quiet and refined


  • CO2 emissions are higher than diesels
  • Lower fuel economy – especially on longer journeys
  • Technology is moving towards electrification


This entry was posted in Car Leasing Knowledge on by Kevin Blackmore

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *