Diesel, hybrid, electric and bifuel cars: when do they amortize compared to a gasoline one?

When facing the purchase of a new car, it is necessary to take into account a series of expenses that go far beyond the initial outlay of its mere acquisition.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
22 May 2023 Monday 22:27
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Diesel, hybrid, electric and bifuel cars: when do they amortize compared to a gasoline one?

When facing the purchase of a new car, it is necessary to take into account a series of expenses that go far beyond the initial outlay of its mere acquisition. Taxes, insurance, and maintenance are some of the insurmountable expenses that come with owning a vehicle. But above all, the cost of fuel is what will ultimately determine if the purchase of the car has been profitable or not based on the kilometers traveled.

For this reason, it is increasingly important for the buyer to choose the best option among the various engine technologies offered by manufacturers. In addition to traditional gasoline and diesel engines, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electrics, and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) are added, a type of vehicle that can also run on gasoline.

There are also cars that run on hydrogen and CNG (compressed natural gas), but they are not viable in Spain. Of the former, there are only two models for sale -Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo-, which together with the lack of hydrogen generators -there are only three stations for public use in the entire national territory- makes this type of vehicle residual.

Sales support this perception. In 2022, only four hydrogen cars were registered in Spain, according to the Anfac manufacturers' association. As far as CNG models are concerned, they have ceased to be marketed in our country.

The Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) has carried out a study to calculate the cost of fuel for a car depending on the type of engine technology it is equipped with. The analysis takes into account the cost per kilometer that involves fixed expenses, such as the amount of the purchase, insurance and taxes, and some variable costs, which do depend on what the vehicle is used for. In this last section the cost of fuel and maintenance is calculated.

In order to carry out the study of the consumption of a car of average size and power, the OCU establishes a common criterion by attributing the same cost of insurance and maintenance to each vehicle regardless of its engine. Something that in practice is not the case because the insurance depends on the type of engine, the make and model of the car or the power, among other concepts.

Likewise, to calculate the consumption of plug-in hybrids, analysts estimate a use of 70% of the electric motor and 30% of the gasoline engine. For bifuel cars, they have meant 100% use with LPG, despite the fact that they also have a gasoline tank.

Regarding the price of energy sources, the OCU report takes the following amounts as a reference to calculate the cost of fuel every 100,000 kilometers:

The OCU analysis, which attributes normal use of the car to one person for more than 10 years, concludes that the most expensive technology in the long term is the gasoline engine. Although it is the cheapest engine at the time of purchase, in the long run it ends up being the most expensive due to the high bill that must be paid for fuel: 12,250 euros. Therefore, it would never pay for itself against other technologies.

Although today there is no longer such a difference in price between diesel and gasoline, cars that run on diesel are still more profitable than the latter, according to the OCU report. The initial outlay for the purchase of a diesel car compared to a gasoline one is slightly higher (2,500 euros more), but instead the cost of fuel every 100,000 km would be 8,900 euros. It would be enough to travel 75,000 km to amortize a diesel car in relation to a gasoline one.

Conventional hybrid cars, which combine a gasoline engine with an electric one that work alone or in combination, have become the first purchase option for Spanish drivers who want to enter the world of sustainable mobility. However, to amortize your purchase (2,500 more than a gasoline car) it is necessary to drive 110,000 km, since the cost of fuel every 100,000 km amounts to 10,000 euros, indicates the study.

Vehicles with this technology, worthy of the DGT Zero label, are 4,000 euros more expensive than gasoline vehicles and 1,500 euros more expensive than conventional diesel and hybrid vehicles at the time of purchase. But instead they are amortized much sooner. With a cost of 6,400 euros of fuel at 100,000 km, 70,000 km are necessary to amortize the purchase and only 25,000 km with the Moves Plan subsidy.

The purchase of an electric car entails a much higher initial outlay than other technologies: 7,000 euros more than a gasoline car, 4,500 euros more than diesel and conventional hybrids and 3,000 euros more than plug-in hybrids. However, a pure electric requires less fuel (4,000 euros per 100,000 km), since the price of electricity is much lower than that of fuel. To amortize an electric car compared to a gasoline one, you would have to travel 85,000 km or 30,000 km with the financial aid of the Moves Plan.

With the numbers in hand, bifuel gasoline-LPG cars are the ones that pay off before. With a sale price similar to one for gasoline (barely 700 euros more), these vehicles have a fuel cost of 8,500 euros per 100,000 km and only need to travel 20,000 km to amortize the initial outlay compared to a gasoline car. The only drawback regarding LPG cars, a gas that is the result of the mixture of butane and propane, is its limited supply on the market, which is reduced to small cars of the Dacia and Renault brands.