Long-Term Maintenance and Durability
The flip side of a diesel-engine's expensive initial cost is its excellent durability. Dodge, Ford, and GM learned long ago they were better off buying diesel technology from experts such as Cummins, International, and Isuzu than spending tons of money developing it themselves. These manufacturers all have years of experience building heavy-duty, over-the-road diesels that have to log 100,000 miles a year for years on end, routinely haul heavy loads and may have to idle for days at a time. Think of the diesel engines found in GM, Ford, and Dodge pickups and SUVs as mini big-rig engines. The average gas engine is good for only around 125,000 miles before needing a rebuild and isn't designed to constantly pull a heavy load. A diesel can go more than three times this amount before needing an overhaul.
Because diesel fuel is easier to refine, taking less time to get from raw petroleum to final product than gasoline, it's usually priced lower than gas. However, occasionally in the U.S., diesel is priced the same or more than regular unleaded gas. This is often because diesel isn't as desirable in some areas leading to higher diesel prices. However, diesel advocates say that if more people drove diesel light trucks and cars, the price would drop dramatically in these areas--and possibly throughout the country.
The lack of fuel availability is the reason we hear most often why people don't choose a diesel engine. Only about two percent of the nation's cars are diesel powered, compared with 25 percent for European countries such as France and Italy. The number is larger for light trucks and SUVs in the U.S., but the overwhelming majority are gasoline-powered. It's a chicken or the egg scenario. The car manufacturers say they'll build more diesels if people will buy them. Consumers say they'd consider diesels if there were more diesel fuel stations. Fuel companies, in turn, say they'd produce more diesel if consumers wanted it. Diesel pumps are easy to spot (they're the one's with the green handles) and can be found in most areas that have a large amount of commercial truck traffic.
Choosing between a gas or diesel engine comes down to what you'll do with the truck and where you live. If you use your truck like a car, desire quick, quiet acceleration, rarely haul a heavy load, and you don't plan on keeping it past 100,000 miles, you may want to consider a gas engine. They run smoother, fuel is easier to find, and they're easier to start in cold weather. However, if you use your truck for towing, value good fuel economy, and plan on racking up loads of miles, diesel is for you. In the end, the leading disappointment regarding diesels is that the price to add a diesel to a 3⁄4- or 1-ton pickup is still quite high versus a more powerful gas engine. But you'll make this back in fuel savings over time. On the flip side, we were pleased to find that manufacturers continue to develop diesel technology, especially in the areas of cold starting, combustion smoothness, and emissions. Now we need diesels in 1⁄2-ton pickups and midsize SUVs.
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