Should you sell your diesel car?

Are you wondering whether you should sell your diesel car? Even if it’s Euro 6 compliant, will a new diesel car hold its current market value for long? Is it worth switching to hybrid, petrol and electric? Sticking with diesel is a growing dilemma for UK motorists.

This guide will answer the most common questions regarding what your current diesel car is worth, its likely ongoing valuation, the potential for increasing costs as we approach the 2030 electric switchover, diesel-specific taxes and charges, and why, despite all the doom and gloom, there are still good reasons to keep your diesel instead of just selling it fast.

Should I buy a diesel car or get rid of my old one?
Should you sell a diesel car in 2021? It could be risky

Should I sell my diesel car?

  1. When does a diesel car make sense?
  2. When should I sell my diesel car?
  3. What is (or was) the diesel toxin tax?
  4. Will diesel cars be banned?
  5. Diesel taxes and charges
  6. Making a final decision

For many years, diesel vehicles were promoted by the UK Government as being more efficient for long journeys – and better for the environment as the MPG is usually far superior with diesel cars.

As a result, diesel sales grew and now account for almost half of all new cars registered in the UK every year.

But after new pollution studies and emissions scandals, diesel engines are now being targeted by tax increases and urban emission charges. Diesel sales dropped still further in London as ULEZ was rolled out. The trend has been similar with the introduction of Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) .

So can a new or second-hand diesel car still be a wise investment? And if you currently own a diesel vehicle, is it a good time to sell? It may be a good time to check your car’s ULEZ compliance status in London to decide.

There are definitely still benefits to buying or owning a diesel car, despite the introduction of the diesel ‘toxin tax’ and multiple clean air zones in several major cities in the UK.  And if you’re considering selling your vehicle, the news may not be as bad as you might have thought.

So whether you’re looking to sell a diesel car, or even exploring leasing a new petrol one, our guide should help you make the right decision.

When a diesel car makes sense:

  • Long journeys:
    Diesel engines still save you money on long journeys and big annual mileages versus petrol equivalents. If you generally cover 15,000 miles or more in a year, then you can definitely cut costs.
  • Rural locations:
    The focus on diesel taxation is in urban areas, particularly London means that older diesels won’t make sense. New diesel cars which meet Euro 6 standards or above are largely exempt from new taxes at the moment, but this may change in the future. Regular urban driving can also clog the diesel particulate filter.
  • Larger vehicles:
    Diesel engines still make sense if you want to buy a people carrier, or you are considering buying an SUV. The torque and power of a diesel engine low in the rev range makes big differences to fuel economy. And it’s also easier to drive as – unlike with petrol versions – you don’t need to rev the engine hard to start making progress.
  • Towing:
    If you plan on regularly towing a caravan, trailer or any other type of load, then a diesel engine will benefit you for the same reasons as it does in larger vehicles.

The Euro 6 emission guidelines are required by law for new diesel cars. For second-hand cars, it’s slightly more complicated. The Euro 6 law came into force from 1st September 2014, but it was applied to new vehicle registrations from September 1st, 2015.

However, a bit of a loophole means that individual cars on sale and dispatched from the manufacturer before 1st June 2015 could still be sold until September 1st 2016.

What that essentially means is that if you buy a diesel car registered from September 1st 2016, it legally meets Euro 6 emission laws. If the vehicle was registered from 2014 to 2016, then you should check with the manufacturer to be certain.

Larger diesel cars and SUVs still make financial sense, but check which emission standards they meet.
Larger diesel cars and SUVs still make financial sense, but check which emission standards they meet.

Before that date, most cars won’t meet the latest emissions laws, although there are a few exceptions. And that means you’re more likely to be charged or even banned in cities across the UK and Europe in years to come.

The future of diesel engines and taxes is explained in more detail below. But since 2019, the Ultra-Low Emission Zone in London has imposed a minimum £12.50 daily fee on any non-Euro 6 diesel vehicles and several other cities are likely to do for the same for their own Clean Air Zones.

This will replace the current T-charge of £10 a day for older cars that don’t meet certain emissions standards. You can find out which cars are affected here.

When should I sell my diesel car?

As a current owner of a diesel car, the resale car value is obviously important.  When it comes to selling your car, you want to get the best price as easily as possible.

And if you’re looking at car valuations, prices of second-hand diesels have definitely fallen. However they have recovered a bit in recent times.

The good news is that diesel car values have generally fallen slightly, rather than collapsed as the stampede to petrol cars has receded. And prices are holding particularly well for larger diesel motors – still in demand due to their better fuel economy. 

So if you’ve got a bigger, luxury vehicle, you shouldn’t lose out if you’re planning to sell.

If you own an older or classic diesel car, like this Mercedes 300TD, is it better to sell now? Or hold on to it?
If you own an older or classic diesel car, like this Mercedes 300TD, is it better to sell now? Or hold on to it?

That leaves the owners of smaller diesel-engined cars who are considering selling. Although values have certainly fallen for those models, there’s still some positive news. Lower prices are still appealing to plenty of buyers less concerned with anti-pollution regulations than getting a good deal. So your car should sell quickly.

The alternative is upgrading via one of the manufacturer diesel car scrappage schemes. If your car is old enough to only meet Euro 4 emissions standards or earlier, you could save thousands on a new model.

Various manufacturers have offered up to around £8,000 from the price of a new car when you trade-in an eligible vehicle. And the offer is normally based on age rather than the condition.

Alternatively, you could hang on to your diesel car for a little longer. There’s no evidence that diesel fuel, or the supply of parts, will be harder to find for many years.  So if you’re not likely to be impacted by various anti-pollution measures in larger cities, you can spend a little more time saving for your next car.

What is the diesel Toxin Tax?

There are various measures being introduced to encourage people away from diesel engines, and ultimately into zero emission vehicles. But it’s the urban anti-pollution measures known as the ‘diesel toxin tax’ that have become most widely publicised.

The charges are a response to the premature deaths in the UK occurring from high levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) in the air. Diesel engines are the primary source. Urban pollution has led to the UK being warned by the European Commission to reduce the levels of NO2.

Potential air pollution is the major issue with diesel cars in cities
Potential air pollution is the major issue with diesel cars in cities

So cities and areas across the UK, led by Greater London, will be ramping up charges for all vehicles from 2021. And older diesel models will be the hardest hit.

From 23rd October 2017 a new toxicity charge applies to vehicles in the same area as the London congestion zone. The £10 fee is in addition to the £11.50 congestion charge, and applied to all pre Euro 4 emission standard vehicles. Everything from motorcycles to HGVs are covered. And it runs from 7am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.

But in April 2019 it became the Ultra-Low Emission Zone. This runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and while petrol vehicles still only need to meet Euro 4 standards, diesel cars and vans need to meet Euro 6 regulations to be exempt. The charge is slightly higher at £12.50.

And other cities throughout the UK are following the approach of London. In England, several cities are due to introduce Clean Air Zones by 2021.

Leeds will tax lorries, buses and taxis at first. But the details for Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham and Southampton are still to be finalised.

In Scotland, low emission zones are proposed for Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

At the moment, most cities are focusing on heavy goods vehicles and public transport. But any additional charges or other areas of the country will probably standardise around the Euro 6 emission regulations for cars.

So if you’re looking to sell a diesel car, it’s important to consider how often you visit major cities. If it’s once or twice a year, then the additional charges will be negligible. But if you’re commuting every day, the costs will add up unless you buy a Euro 6 compliant diesel car.

Will diesel cars be banned?

Various countries, including the UK, have made pledges to phase out all internal combustion engines from sale in the next few decades, with the sale of new diesel and petrol cars to be banned in the UK from 2030.  But it’s extremely unlikely that used diesel cars will be banned outright in the foreseeable future, however taxes will inevitably rise.

Demand for new and second-hand diesel cars may have fallen. And new registrations dropped by almost a quarter for new diesel cars from 2017 to 2018 alone. But the huge numbers currently in use means a ban would be unworkable for now and would lead to huge outcry for many years to come.

It also means that the demand for diesel fuel will continue, which is at least good news for owners of both cars and oil refineries, if not the environment. Changing to any alternative fuel sources will continue to be gradual over the next few years.

What may happen in the short term is increasingly limited access to cities and other urban areas for older diesel cars. Paris already bans pre-2001 diesel cars from the city centre on weekdays between 8am and 8pm. That switched to pre-2005 diesels in 2019.

And diesel cars are set to be outlawed entirely from the centre of Paris from 2024, followed by petrol in 2030.

Will diesel cars be banned, or will fuel become unavailable in the near future?
Will diesel cars be banned, or will fuel become unavailable in the near future?

In total there are around 200 low emission zones currently operating across Europe. The result is that a diesel ban is unlikely to be needed.  If diesel cars do ever disappear from the roads, it will be due to a drop in consumer demand.

Some manufacturers have stopped the supply of diesel engines to the UK market. Or removed them from their car ranges, including Suzuki, Porsche and Toyota. And many other car makers are pledging to phase out diesel and petrol-only cars in favour of hybrid and electric vehicles. The range of hybrid and electric cars to buy is growing all the time.

With modern diesel engines meeting ever-tougher environmental rules, they’re likely to continue until the point that electric cars make more sense for the majority of buyers, rather than ever being subject to an outright ban.

Diesel taxes and charges

After looking in detail at the charges applied to city driving, what other taxes and charges apply? It’s important we cover this as you’ll need to factor in all the costs before you buy or sell a diesel car.

Recently there was an increase in the first year Vehicle Excise Duty (or car tax) for diesels. This has been increased by up to £520 depending on which CO2 emission band your car falls into. The rise in costs is concentrated on the five heaviest polluting groups.

The biggest increase is for cars emitting between 191 and 225g/km of CO2, as the total cost has now risen to £1760.

Company car tax rate applied to diesel vehicles has also increased, from 3% to 4%. The exact increase will depend on the value of your car, its CO2 emissions and the personal tax rate you pay. So as with a private car, you’ll need to decide if the benefits of a diesel engine outweigh the increased tax cost.

Diesel owners face one final cost for city centre life in addition to the tax to enter urban areas. But this time it’s increased parking charges.

Councils in Westminster and Islington in London have introduced higher parking fees for diesel vehicles.  And an increase in costs for parking permits has also been proposed in Edinburgh.

Two London boroughs have introduced extra parking charges for diesel cars
Two London boroughs have introduced extra parking charges for diesel cars

Westminster has introduced trials with a 50% surcharge for pre-2015 diesel vehicles, raising the highest costs in the West End from £4.90 to £7.35 per hour.

Meanwhile in Islington, the additional cost applies to all diesel cars, and increases parking fees by £2 per hour.

Finally in Scotland, permit holders in Edinburgh will pay an additional £40 charge if they buy a new diesel car.

So should you sell your diesel your car?

There are now more costs and complications to take into account with diesel than ever before, but it’s not quite game over for diesel just yet.

Still, there are many cases in which a diesel engine makes more financial sense than swapping to petrol or alternative fuelled vehicles. Modern emission laws will continue to reduce the impact on health and the environment.

Meanwhile there’s no need to panic if you currently own a diesel car and might be thinking of selling.

Larger, more expensive vehicles are still attracting lots of buyers. And smaller-engined examples don’t need to be scrapped yet unless you’re planning on driving into central London on a daily basis. So you have time to plan ahead and sell your car at the best time.

Need more advice for buying or selling your diesel car?

Check out one of our other guides or selling pages, we’ve got you covered: