What is the difference between a diesel and standard engine?

As fuel efficiency increases and emission concerns decrease, consumers are looking at both diesel and gas engines when shopping for a vehicle. More companies are entering the diesel vehicle market, and new and upcoming 2021 diesel vehicles include offerings from a wide range of vehicle manufacturers.

So, how does a consumer decide between a diesel or gas vehicle? The first step is to understand the difference between how the two engines work.

Differences Between Gas & Diesel Engines:

Both diesel and gas engines use intake, compression, ignition, and exhaust. Gas engine intake involves pulling air and fuel into the combustion chamber. Diesel engines only pull in air during intake. Compression is the same process in both diesel and gas engines. Spark plugs control ignition in gas engines, but fuel injectors control ignition in diesel engines. Gas and diesel engines handle exhaust the same by forcing fumes out of the cylinder by a piston.

Besides differences in the internal workings of the engines, consumers must consider several other factors when comparing diesel and gas vehicles.


Up-front cost: The initial cost of a diesel vehicle is higher than a gas vehicle because diesels are more expensive to build.

Fuel: In the United States, a gallon of diesel fuel stays about 30-40 cents higher than a gallon of gas. However, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Diesel engines are more fuel-efficient than similar size gas engines. Diesel vehicles can often travel 20% to 30% further on a gallon of fuel than similar gas engines.

Maintenance: Diesels cost more to repair because parts and skilled mechanics are less available. For similar reasons, insurance costs are higher for diesel vehicles.


Diesel engines have improved performance because of increased power, acceleration, and efficiency. Diesels have more torque, which leads to better get-up-and-go and towing ability.


In the past, diesel vehicles had a reputation as being smelly and dirty engines. However, researchers solved these problems, and diesels must now meet the same emission standards as gas vehicles.

Understanding the difference between diesel and gas engines helps consumers become better informed about the advantages and disadvantages of each type of engine. This increased knowledge will lead to better options for meeting individual needs and preferences.

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