Should you sell your diesel car?

    Are you wondering whether you should sell your diesel car? Sticking with diesel is a growing dilemma for UK motorists. Even if it’s a Euro 6 compliant model, it’s hard to know whether a diesel car will hold its market value well. Many drivers will be considering the switch to hybrid, petrol, or electric.

    Read this guide for insight into what your current diesel car is worth, the potential for increasing costs as we approach the 2035 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 2023? 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 to the point where they accounted 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 and subsequently expanded. The trend has been similar with the introduction of many Clean Air Zones (CAZ) and Low Emission Zones (LEZ) around the UK.

    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? If you live in or near London, you should check your car’s ULEZ compliance status before you decide.

    There are definitely still benefits to buying or owning a diesel car, despite the introduction of the diesel ‘toxin tax’ and clean air zones in several major cities in the UK.  They tend to fetch a greater MPG than other fuel types, and last longer than petrol engines.

    So, if you’re considering selling a diesel car 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 cut costs.
    • Rural locations:
      The focus on diesel taxation in urban areas, particularly London, means that older diesel vehicles are not a sound investment. 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 may make financial sense thanks to their MPG, 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.

    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. 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 a manufacturer’s diesel car scrappage scheme. 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 previously 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 discourage people from diesel engines, in favour of 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.

    London initiated a ‘diesel toxin tax’ several years ago, but since 2019 this has been absorbed into the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).

    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’s ULEZ, have ramped up charges for all vehicles, especially those with engines that don’t pass muster with Euro 4 (petrol) or Euro 6 (diesel) standards. Some of these charge passenger car drivers, but almost all CAZ and LEZ in the country charge van drivers – and, most vans are diesel engine vehicles. Read our ultimate guide on driving vans in ULEZ and other charging zones.

    At the moment, most cities are focusing on reducing heavy goods vehicles and improving public transport. But, with the 2035 electric switchover imminent, and air pollution a growing concern, it’s clear that diesel engines will eventually be highly restricted, along with other pollutive engines.

    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 in and around urban areas, the costs will add up.

    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 2035. However, it’s extremely unlikely that used diesel cars will be banned outright in the foreseeable future, although taxes will inevitably rise.

    EVs gained a lot of market share in 2021 and 2022, so it’s hard to justify buying new diesel cars unless you desperately need a vehicle with the highest possible MPG. However, with so many diesel cars on the road, an outright ban would be unworkable and lead to huge outcry.

    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?

    As of July 2022 there are 320 low emission zones operating across Europe, this is expected to rise above 500 by the end of 2025. 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 and industrial production.

    Many manufacturers have already 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 are more accessible and available for the majority of buyers.

    Diesel taxes and charges

    The following figures are based on the tax year 2022/23.

    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.

    Some of the EV gains of the past, e.g. being road-tax free, have now been rolled back and from 2025 EVs will be subject to road tax. 

    As for diesel cars registered on or after 1 April 2017, their first tax payment depends on both their CO2 emissions and NO emissions. When they meet the Real Driving Emissions 2 (RDE2) standard for NO levels, and their CO2 emissions are under 75g/km, their initial tax payment is very affordable at £25 at the most. 

    However, the rate goes up as both emission factors increase and at the most pollutive level (over 255g/km of CO2 and non-compliant with RDE2 levels of NO), the first tax payment will be £2,365. 

    From the second tax payment onwards, diesel cars are currently taxed at the same rate as petrol cars, at £165 per year. If the car at the point of purchase was worth more than £40,000 then you also pay the surplus tax rate of £355 per year for five years.

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

    Councils across the country are also introducing surcharges on parking for diesel vehicles.

    In London, this includes Westminster, Lewisham, Camden, Islington and Beckenham where various schemes have been trialled in car parks.

    In Edinburgh, parking permit holders will pay an additional £40 charge if they buy a new diesel car.

    These schemes discourage diesel driving in urban areas; over the coming years we will likely see more rollout of similar policies.

    So, should you sell your diesel 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 some 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. You should still get a good price – especially if you sell via Motorway, where dealers all over the country can offer for your car and collect it for free.

    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 urban centres on a daily basis. So you have time to plan ahead and sell your car at the best time.

    Is it time to sell your car?

    Want to learn more about owning, maintaining, and selling your car? Check out more of our guides here, covering everything from finding buyers, to negotiating a good price, and completing payment safely.