Understanding Fuel: Gasoline vs Diesel

gasoline vs diesel in GMC vehicles

Diesel fuel: does it evoke figments of black smoke and sad environmentalists? That’s because the diesel industry has been dealing with scandals from automakers like Volkswagen, attempting to blindfold drivers from the realities of their vehicles. However, in the GM world, several diesel vehicles are being introduced in 2018 and 2019 to bring back diesel customers that have been wronged by VW. With better technology for diesel-burning vehicles, increased emissions standards, and upfront honesty, GM is aiming to improve diesel vehicles’ bad reputation.

Gasoline has been a frontrunner in the auto industry for a very long time. Is it finally time for diesel engines to have their spotlight, rightfully this time?

Petroleum, Refined.

First of all, where does our fuel come from? Gasoline and diesel come from the same source – the ground. Petroleum is pumped out of the ground and then refined into a number of different products: gasoline and diesel fuel are two of those products.

Simply, petroleum contains several hydrocarbons – the carbon atoms combine in different structures, or strings, to create several gases. The more carbon atoms, the heavier the substance. Gasoline is refined from a lighter carbon string than diesel, which makes gasoline a much thinner viscosity, like water, while diesel is much thicker, like a syrup. Don’t worry, there isn’t a test after this.

Pump It: The Right Stuff.

Gasoline is the number one provider of fuel for everyday drivers. Fuel is a huge industry that is causing debate among environmentalists, business owners, and in-betweeners like us. We won’t get into that right now, let’s just look at the way it works.

Your vehicle only runs on the right fuel for its engine; gasoline is the most common, but diesel is making a bit of a comeback. After filling up at the pumps – RIP, money – the way the vehicle uses fuel is where gasoline and diesel engines differ. Very simply, gasoline engines compress air and fuel and when the timing is right, the spark plug ignites it. In a diesel engine, spark plugs don’t exist! Diesel fuel and air are squeezed to their limit and spontaneously combust (aka compression ignition).

Fuel pumps, at least in my experience, are clearly labelled so just make sure you’re filling up with the right stuff. Filling up with diesel in a gasoline engine can wreak absolute havoc on your poor car. The extra two seconds it takes to make sure you’ve got the right fuel will save you thousands in repairs later. Luckily, most diesel vehicles are manufactured to only accept diesel fuel. But it doesn’t hurt to just pay attention.


  • More horsepower than vehicles using diesel
  • Quieter and smoother than diesel engines
  • Repairs are cheaper
  • Few, if any, issues starting due to cold weather
  • Require more service
  • Gasoline engine consumes more fuel
  • Emits more carbon dioxide than diesel
  • Gasoline often costs the same or more than diesel1
  • Options for biodiesel (not a DIY project)
  • Reliable and require less constant care than gas engines
  • Simpler engine
  • Better gas mileage
  • More usable energy than gasoline
  • More torque than a gasoline engine
  • No high-speed performance
  • Vehicle is more expensive than gasoline counterpart
1. Fuel prices, as you know, vary all the time. While it may or may not be true at this moment in time, that will change in the near future.

Overall, diesel engines seem like an excellent choice for drivers concerned about fuel efficiency and maintenance. However, gasoline is still a top choice for smooth-sailing fans of speed and works a little better for our climate. When comparing the two options, it truly comes down to driver preference.

What Do You Think?

GM is taking advantage of the improved fuel economy and cleaner-burning fuel by adding diesel options to the Terrain, Canyon, and Sierra. Would you consider buying a diesel-powered vehicle or do you prefer gasoline? Let us know in the comments!

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