Before you get on the road, it’s important to identify the advantages and disadvantages of diesel trucks vs. gasoline trucks so you can choose wisely. After all, both types of trucks have unique advantages that make them helpful for certain types of carriers.
Plenty of new truckers assume diesel engines are more effective for long haul trucking. This is likely due to the fact that diesel engines are known to have more torque, which can be effective for moving heavy loads. But are diesel trucks better across the board? Not always.
While it’s true that diesel engines generally have higher torque than gasoline engines, some types of trucking work better with less torque, and instead benefit from the higher horsepower available in gasoline engines. Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of diesel trucks vs. gasoline trucks so you can determine which type of engine is right for you.
What is the difference between diesel trucks vs. gasoline trucks?
The main difference between diesel trucks vs. gasoline trucks is the engine design. Different types of fuel are suitable for diesel and gasoline engines, which operate using separate mechanisms for fuel ignition. However, every gas station is equipped with both diesel fuel and gasoline, which makes both options perfectly suitable for professional truckers.
At the most basic level, both diesel and gasoline engines operate in the same way — by creating tiny explosions using hot air and fuel. These events create enough energy to move the pistons up and down, which powers the vehicle. However, there are some significant differences between diesel trucks vs. gasoline trucks once you dig a little deeper.
Gasoline engines create a mixture of air and gasoline within the engine’s combustion chamber, which the piston compresses until it’s highly combustible. Then, a spark plug ignites the air and gasoline, creating an explosion in the chamber that forces the piston and moves the vehicle. Diesel engines, on the other hand, do not use spark plugs — instead, a diesel engine heats up air using high compression, then injects the fuel directly into the hot air, creating a combustion reaction with no spark.
While these concepts might seem quite similar, there are plenty of differences between diesel trucks vs. gasoline trucks that make each uniquely qualified for different types of work.
The pros and cons of diesel trucks
Diesel engines have a reputation for being tough and reliable, despite the relatively high per-gallon fuel costs. High-volume towing and long-distance driving are both good uses of a diesel engine, but there are drawbacks that can make diesel a less efficient alternative compared to gasoline. The pros and cons of diesel engines include:
- Pro: Diesel engines last a long time. For owner operators clocking thousands of miles, one of the first questions you should ask is: Are diesel trucks better for long distances? There’s plenty of evidence to say that diesel trucks are the better long-distance vehicle compared to gasoline trucks, but it isn’t as simple as that. In general, diesel engines last longer than gasoline engines because they can withstand a higher compression ratio. Put simply, this means diesel engines don’t get tired as quickly as gasoline engines do. So, exactly how many miles can a diesel truck last? It all depends on the model of the truck. There are some diesel trucks that can last well into the hundreds of thousands of miles. However, longevity shouldn’t be the only consideration in deciding on a truck. There are lots of other factors — like maintenance cost and light load hauling— that can make gasoline trucks a more sensible choice in certain scenarios.
- Con: Hauling light loads can be inefficient. Lots of owner operators start off with lighter LTL loads, before moving to full-size hauling. However, diesel isn’t always the most efficient option when you’re hauling light loads. When it’s time to tow light loads, diesel can be less efficient than gasoline because gasoline engines offer a higher horsepower and lower torque — which can actually make gasoline more efficient and less expensive for light loads. On the other hand, when it comes heavy loads, diesel is a great option because of its high torque, plus an integrated exhaust brake which lasts longer for heavy towing than traditional brakes.
- Pro: Better fuel economy. Diesel fuel is more expensive per gallon than gasoline, which often raises concerns about costliness for new truckers. But the better fuel economy of diesel trucks can offset these costs and more, making diesel a cheaper (and more environmentally friendly) fuel option overall. This is because diesel fuel offers more energy density per gallon, which helps to provide the additional torque needed to power diesel engines. For heavy loads, this additional fuel density can give diesel a much better miles-per-gallon fuel economy than gasoline trucks. Another benefit of diesel fuel is that there are more types of diesel fuel to choose from — which means you can find the best fuel match for your specific vehicle. Even better, diesel fuel can also include biodiesel, which is an environmentally-friendly alternative to petroleum diesel.
- Con: Higher maintenance costs. We’ve established that diesel trucks often get better gas mileage than gasoline trucks with the same loads. But that doesn’t mean diesel trucks are less expensive to operate. Why are diesel trucks so expensive to maintain? The answer is usually in the cost of addressing maintenance issues in a diesel engine. Diesel engines last longer than gasoline engines, which makes them less likely to experience wear and tear over time. In theory, this is a great thing for long-distance truckers — however, there is a catch. When it’s time to fix a performance issue with a diesel truck, diesel engines can cost much more to maintain than gasoline trucks. This is due to the operational structure of a diesel engine, which often uses parts that are durable, expensive, and difficult to find. While it’s true that gasoline engines may develop faulty spark plugs (which diesel engines do not have in the first place), but spark plug issues tend to be simpler and cheaper to fix than issues with diesel engines. Even though diesel engines can still be cheaper overall for long-distance driving, the upfront cost of maintenance is still an important consideration for new truckers.
The pros and cons of gasoline trucks
Now let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of gasoline trucks. These engines have high horsepower, they start up quickly, and their maintenance is often cheaper and more convenient. But gasoline trucks can also have drawbacks, like inefficiency and depreciation — not to mention greater difficulty when it comes to towing heavy loads, which may be a dealbreaker depending on the types of loads you’re transporting. A pickup truck is the most common example of a gasoline truck used for hauling loads.
Some pros and cons of gasoline trucks include:
- Pro: Good for hauling lighter loads. When it’s time to haul lighter loads, gasoline trucks can be a more sensible option. One of the reasons why gasoline pickup trucks are more common for local, non-commercial transportation is the lighter engine weight, which allows for a higher payload capacity. That can make gasoline engines more efficient for light loads and short distances compared to diesel engines. Gasoline engines also tend to have higher horsepower, which makes them more effective for light hauling — but not for high-capacity towing.
- Con: Less efficient fuel consumption. With rising fuel costs impacting truck drivers everywhere, gasoline pickup trucks might seem more appealing at first glance. This is because gasoline is generally cheaper per gallon than diesel fuel — however, diesel fuel is often cheaper overall, even if its per gallon cost is higher. With higher efficiency and per-gallon energy density, diesel fuel gets more miles per gallon than gasoline, which means truckers can fuel up less frequently, making the costs more than balance out. Something to note about diesel is that it’s often more expensive per gallon due to fuel taxes — which can vary from state to state. However, this also means diesel fuel is sometimes cheaper than gasoline per gallon if you’re in a state with low taxes, which can be an added bonus!
- Pro: Easier maintenance. No matter where you’re traveling, maintenance for gasoline pickup trucks shouldn’t be hard to find. That’s why, even though diesel engines can last longer, gasoline engines are usually cheaper and easier to maintain when there’s a performance issue. Gas engines tend to have simpler components, without the integrated exhaust system and multiple filters that make diesel engines so complex. Common issues with gasoline engines often involve spark plug maintenance, which is usually fast and easy. However, gasoline pickup truck engines aren’t always cheaper to maintain. If you’re running a gasoline engine for long periods of time, wear-and-tear can lead to more serious performance issues that are just as costly as diesel engines.
- Con: Lower average resale value. Because gasoline engines tend to be less durable than diesel engines for long haul trucking, they can lose value relatively quickly. In just five years, it’s not uncommon for gasoline vehicles to lose more than fifty percent of their initial value. That’s an important consideration for truckers who may be interested in starting off with a smaller vehicle, then reselling for a larger truck after a few years of driving. With higher average resale value, diesel engines are often more cost-effective than gasoline engines if you’re planning to resell your vehicle after a few years.
Which is better — diesel or gasoline?
With high inflation and rising fuel prices, truckers need to make sure they’re operating as efficiently as possible. When it comes time to choose a vehicle for your trucking business, there’s no easy answer. When comparing diesel trucks vs. gasoline trucks, each one has its relative pros and cons. While it’s true that gasoline vehicles perform better for short distances and lighter loads — and that they often have cheaper maintenance costs, they aren’t always the best fit for a trucker. Diesel vehicles usually get better gas mileage and have better resale value compared to gasoline trucks, plus they’re great for heavy towing.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide which type of vehicle is right for your business. Each engine can be a better fit under certain conditions, which means you’ll need a good understanding of how you’ll be using your truck beforehand so you can make the best choice from the start. For many truckers, the relatively balanced pros and cons between the two mean it may all come down to personal preference. If that’s what happens for you, don’t worry. As long as you’ve done the research and have then determined that they’re both an equally good fit, then you can choose based on whatever criteria you’d like.
Find the right loads with DAT
Once you’ve settled on a truck, whether you’re looking at diesel trucks vs. gasoline trucks, DAT is here to help you find the best loads for the best prices. The DAT load board is the most complete load board in the trucking industry, with more than 400 million new loads posted annually. No matter what type of truck you operate, you can find tons of loads that are exclusive to DAT.
With DAT One (Formerly TruckersEdge) for Carriers, you can access all the information you need to find the perfect load every time. Plus, DAT One (Formerly TruckersEdge) offers additional services for more advanced subscriptions, like average spot market rates and route triangulation that can help you make the best decisions for your business. As your trucking business grows, you can access even more trucking services with a more complex load board.
As a new owner operator, gasoline vs. diesel is one of the first decisions you’ll need to make. After that, DAT can help you find the right loads, from the right shippers, at the right time. With the best load board in the business, DAT makes trucking more efficient.
Discover quality loads quickly with DAT!
Whether you choose diesel trucks or gasoline trucks, you’ll need to find loads — and there’s no better tool to have in your arsenal than the DAT load board with its millions of loads and useful filtering features.