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Rental car - gas or diesel?

Here in the US, diesel prices seem substantially higher than our (also high) gas prices. I assume the same is true in Europe (although much higher for both). When shopping for a rental car in Europe (in my case, Portugal/Spain), is it still more economical to get a rental that takes diesel rather than gas? I know diesels typically get better mileage (or kilometerage...) than gas cars, but how does it all balance out with the price differential?

So if given a choice, which is more economical (or should I say, least painful)?

Posted by
10344 posts

Not necessarily. Price of fuel is changing quickly at this time in Europe as well as here. It's difficult to get current price info unless you know someone in the country. We have recently had reports from the UK by a resident that the price of diesel is about the same as gas--not what you'd expect based on the past. The attached graph is the best I've found and shows that as of June 1 it appears there is little difference, in Europe, between the cost of diesel and gas, with prices ranging from $8.75 to almost $10.00 per gallon, depending on the country. But neither Spain nor Portugal are on the graph. Here's the link to the graph: click here

Posted by
2297 posts

It used to be that Diesel was cheaper in Europe. Well, I'm not sure about portugal/spain but definitely in many other countries. Right now it seems to be about equal pretty much everywhere at about 1.50 Euro/l

A diesel definitely gets better mileage. Depending of the size of the engine of your car you can get about 1000 km out of one tank of diesel. Almost 50% better than the comparable gas car.

Here in Canada I drive a minivan and with the poor mileage I get on that one I don't really spend more on gas/diesel when I'm driving a smaller fuel-efficient car in Europe. Mind you, Canada's gas prizes have always been a bit higher than the ones in the US.

Posted by
3313 posts

I've had good luck specifying that I want to rent a diesel through Autoeurope. I always ask for one because they get better mileage and the fuel used to be cheaper.

Posted by
850 posts

Diesel in Europe was a good bit cheaper than gas but the price gap between diesel and gas has narrowed in the last few months. Here is a link for fuel prices in Germany which shows very little difference.
Not sure about the difference in Portugal and Spain but diesel engines do get better fuel mileage so even with the prices being about equal you would be better off with a diesel engine with manual transmission. The demand for diesel has increased in Europe over the years. In 2007 diesel autos accounted for 53.3% of all new registrations in Europe whereas it was 13.8% in 1990. This plays a role in the price gap narrowing since there are millions more diesel consuming engines running around Europe today.
Like Doug, I have not had any problem getting a diesel engine when I make my request through Gemut, another auto broker with a good reputation. Unlike the old sluggish diesel engines we had in the States in yesteryear the diesel powered engines in Europe are peppy and I cannot tell the difference between gas and diesel engines when driving.

Posted by
711 posts

When we drove around France last October, we were upgraded to a green car category and got a Prius. This was at Hertz in Paris at Orly. Although the car was a bigger one and it was about 500.00 a week it saved us a ton on gas... really.

Posted by
18384 posts

According to that chart, gas in Europe now averages about $9 per gallon, up from about $7 per gallon a years ago, a 22% increase. However, adjusting for the change in value of the dollar, gas has only gone up €0,58, from €5,21 to €5,78 per gallon! Over half of the increase in the cost to us, in $/gal, is due to the drop of the value of the $.

Posted by
11973 posts

Many Americans think of a diesel car as being noisy and stinky.

I always choose a diesel in Europe. They drive great, no noise or vibration and no noticable diesel smell. They get better mileage and you usually save a little per liter over gas.

Posted by
842 posts

We always rent a diesel. Last XMass the four of us rented a diesel wagon for a week in Portugal and got 46 mpg. Make sure that you factor in the diesel milage; you won't get that out of a gas rig!(maybe 25 mpg with gas?)

We usually use the broker Auto Europe to get the best rates, but were told to try They found us a fantastic price with a rental agency called Guerin.

Posted by
6025 posts

The increase in sales of Diesel cars was mentioned, this has created the demand that has increased prices of diesel compared to gasoline (as well as overall price increases) This demand is felt over here too, as diesel previously sold in the US is being diverted to Europe.

Posted by
1358 posts

I have always rented diesel because you get better mileage and fuel has always been much cheaper than unleaded.

Read the "Driving Europe Crazy" column on this page.

Posted by
1 posts

Hey People!
Here is the information that you needed.
Today is 7/23/2008 and the prices of fuel in Portugal and Spain are as follows:

Portugal Spain
Unleaded 98 1,589 1,275
Unleaded 95 1,503 1,078
Diesel 1,399 1,075

Do you wanna know what's the reason for this HUGE difference?
In Portugal we double tax the liter of fuel, meaning the total tax that you pay in 1 liter represents 59%.
There is de IVA tax (21% for all products) and then is the tax over fuel products which I don't know the exact amount.
So this has a name:
We are being robbed by the government, pure and simple.
So if you come to Europe, rent a diesel car - as you can see in Spain you don't get any advantage but in Portugal, yes; furthermore, diesel engines polute less, are silent, are more powerful, more reliable and more economic than the gas ones.
That's why there have been a huge demanding in diesel cars in the last decade.
Despite of being expensive, if you do many miles per year, you'll get the benefit compared with a normal gas car.
Another important tip:
Try to refill your tank in a supermarket gas station by keeping the ticket of what you bought; at the end you'll obtain a significative discount per liter
One more thing:
Things here are much more expensive than in the US so I was told by my girlfriend who lives in Rochester, NY.
The only thing that is less expensive here is the milk.
You must also pay atttention to the currency - multiply the prices in Euros per $1.66USD

Take care and have fun


Posted by
157 posts

I just rented a diesel in Italy. I was pleased with the mileage and the price of diesel at the pumps did not seem much more than the gas at the same station. Ironically, when I booked the car it was the first time I got the car I actually booked - normally the car I rent is not available when I show up both here and in Europe. So I wonder if requesting a diesel will really do you any good. The last 3 or 4 cars I rented in Europe have been diesels and I have been happy with each one. They are not like the old diesels here in the states.

Posted by
2207 posts

In Italy today (downtown Rome)

Diesel - E1.58 a liter

Gas - E1.53 a liter

If ONE US Gallon = 3.785413 liters and factoring in the rate of exchange at $1.60 then the price of gas today in Italy is:

Diesel - $9.57 a gal

Gas - $9.27 a gallon

____________ OUCH!


Posted by
410 posts

We live in Spain and drive a diesel car. Diesel cars are a lot more common here than UK and I would have thought therefore that your chances of renting one quite high. We did ask for a diesel when renting a car in UK recently but got a petrol one so I don´t know if there is ever a guarantee.

Posted by
1358 posts

As you are probably aware,Rental agencies never guarantee ANY car. You might get a diesel model and you might get air conditioning and you might get automatic trans. But you never know in advance.

I always specify what I want, but never expect to get it. The last two cars I rented, I forgot to ask for diesel and in both cases I was give a diesel model!

Hereafter I will always check cost of fuel and when best I will ask for a diesel model.