One of the fundamental confusions while buying a car is to choose between available fuel options on the market – petrol, diesel, or CNG. While the selection of model, colour, and variant might not put you in a dilemma, the fuel choice might drag your mind into confusion. The decision has not only implications in terms of the retail price but also going to influence your daily running cost in terms of fueling/refueling of the car. Indeed, it is a complicated decision and requires a comprehensive analysis of some hard facts in a very objective manner. With electric vehicles expected in a short while, the popular rides available in the Indian market are still petrol, diesel, and CNG. We explain in detail important dimensions you should consider before finally selecting the fuel that your car should run on.
1. Retail Cost: The prices of the same variant of the car can differ considerably depending upon the fuel it runs on. The petrol variant of a vehicle is the cheapest while the diesel model is the one which costs you the highest. CNG variant, on the other hand, stacks between petrol and diesel with its price tag nearing the petrol variant than the diesel one. Take, for instance, Maruti Suzuki WagonR which is one of the best selling hatchbacks in India. The base petrol variant WagonR LXI is priced at Rs 4.34 lakh while the corresponding CNG variant is priced at Rs 4.99 lakh, thereby translating into a price difference of Rs 65,000.
However, when it comes to the difference between petrol and diesel variant prices, the contrast is starker. The petrol VXI and diesel VDI variants of Maruti Suzuki Swift are priced at Rs 6.14 lakh and Rs 7.03 lakh respectively which translates into a price difference of Rs 90,000. The dissimilarity in the price is even more exaggerated once we start moving up the price ladder and consider luxurious offerings having high snob value. For example, the difference between petrol and diesel variant price of Toyota Innova Crysta is around Rs 1.5 lakh which is quite substantial. (All prices, ex-showroom, Delhi).
Now before you decide which fuel option to go for, you have to seriously consider the implications of the retail price of the car for your financials. This becomes even more important if you are planning to finance your purchase by availing loan facility from banks or Non Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).
The petrol cars have the lowest price tag and keeping other things constant, you should go for a petrol variant if you lack the money or planning to finance the car. CNG option is not bad either and as we have seen above, the difference is not very large and won’t pressurize your financial condition much. The purchase of the diesel, however, is sure to put a strain on your pocket and in case you are planning to avail the loan facility, the diesel model should be the last fuel-choice in the list of your priorities. That said, these observations are only on the basis of the retail price of the car and in the next section, we explain how these dynamics can change when we introduce the daily traveling distance and fuel-efficiency concept into the picture.
2) Daily travel requirement: Before we start doing number crunching, it’s important to consider the prices of the fuel in the country. For illustrative purposes, we are taking prices of fuel in Delhi and you can adjust the calculations according to the prevailing prices in your city. In Delhi, petrol costs Rs 72.42/liter, diesel Rs 65.82/liter, and CNG Rs 47.10/kg. In terms of fuel cost, petrol is the costliest while CNG is the cheapest one.
Now try to focus on your daily travel requirement. A simple thumb rule says that if you travel less than 70 km/day with monthly travel below 2500 km, you should go for a petrol vehicle. However, if your daily travel need is more than 70 km but less than 100 km, then CNG would be the right option for you. A person traveling more than 100 km per day with monthly travel exceeding 3000 km should consider buying the diesel car as the difference of Rs 7/liter in the price of petrol and diesel definitely help diesel car owners to save considerably on the fuel cost. Correlating this price difference (Rs 7/liter) with the retail price, you are able to recover the extra money spent on buying the diesel vehicle (around Rs 90,000) within a period of one or one-and-a-half years. However, make a note that the time taken to recover this extra money will be elongated if the car is purchased on the EMIs.
CNG variant also makes for a good option though the tight supply of CNG and its availability only on selected fuel stations is a major source of worry for buyers. In metropolitan cities, the availability of CNG might not be a big issue but it is definitely an impeding factor when it comes to the demand for CNG cars in the smaller cities and towns. Further, the CNG cylinder eats out most of the space in the boot which can further discourage many buyers from purchasing the car.
3) Fuel-efficiency factor: CNG cars not only provides you the best fuel efficiency figures (delivering 31km/kg) but also has considerably less harmful impact on the environment – CNGs have at least 30% less emissions. Diesel stacks close second to CNG in fuel-economy (providing around 22-25 kmpl on an average) though it pollutes the environment in the worst possible manner (highest CO emissions among other gases). Petrol cars run comparatively cleaner than diesel though these are the least fuel-efficient in the trio (average pegging around 16-18 kmpl). Now considering the high fuel efficiency of diesel with its unconstrained supply, it’s no wonder that diesel is an ideal pick for people who use to drive long distances and munch miles on a regular basis.
4) Pulling it together: For making things easy for you, we have summarized results on these three parameters in table 1 given below to help you choose the specific car in the specific context:
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