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Buying a Car: Is It Hard to Live With a Diesel?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro June 2015

If you're interested in buying a car with a focus on fuel efficiency, you're probably considering a diesel car. Diesel-powered cars have become wildly popular in recent years, with many drivers preferring them over hybrids -- especially for long-term highway cruising. But is it challenging to live with a diesel? We don't think so -- and today, we're telling you exactly why you should have no trouble if your next car is diesel-powered.

Noise? Smell?

Years ago, diesel cars were shunned by many American drivers, primarily because of their noise and smell. Old 1970s and 1980s diesels used to come with a loud clacking noise you could never really get rid of -- regardless of whether you were stopped at a traffic light or accelerating down the street. And then there was the smell of diesel fuel and exhaust, which always seemed to be far worse than any smell that would come from a gasoline-powered car.

Fortunately, most of that is gone in the modern era. Today's diesel models aren't smelly, and they barely make any more sound than a traditional gasoline engine. In fact, most people who don't know the subtle differences between the noise of a diesel engine and a gas-powered car probably won't even be able to tell which is which. Indeed, diesels have been modernized, so you no longer have to make any compromises to own one.

They're Not That Slow, Either

Another characteristic of diesel engines in years past was their power -- or rather, their lack of it. Diesel models in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s were famously slow, offering only dozens of horsepower where there should have been hundreds. This, too, turned off a lot of buyers from diesel cars forever, since some diesel models couldn't even manage to adequately accelerate up a highway on-ramp.

But this is no longer a problem with modern diesels. No, most diesel-powered cars aren't exactly fast, but that's true of nearly all vehicles with a focus on fuel efficiency. Still, diesels aren't as slow as they once were. Even the most frugal models now offer acceptable acceleration, while some are surprisingly quick. Either way, we suspect that you won't be counting out your 0-to-60 time in minutes like you once were.

Finding Diesel Fuel

Another question drivers often ask about diesel cars is whether or not they can easily find diesel fuel. This time, it's a legitimate concern: While diesel cars have modernized a lot over the years, not all gas stations have, which means many still don't offer diesel.

Our advice? Before buying a car with a diesel engine, take a quick look around your area and mentally take note of the nearby gas stations with a diesel pump. No, they might not be the closest ones to you, and that means you may have to drive a little out of your way when it's time to refuel. But if the benefit is excellent gas mileage, this slight inconvenience might be worth it.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: Is It Hard to Live With a Diesel? - Autotrader