Three in ten car buyers don’t know whether to go petrol, diesel or electric with next car

There’s still lots of confusion surrounding which powertrain to opt for

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Almost a third of UK car drivers have no idea whether petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric is the right choice for them when they change their car, according to a new survey.

With a certain amount of mystery surrounding the right fuel choice for the job, it appears that motorists are feeling left in the dark about which car they should pick next.

Matters are not helped by the latest government plans announced this month that propose to ban the sale of new combustion-engined cars (petrol, diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid) from 2035. This is a significantly more substantial step than banning purely petrol and diesel cars by 2040 as previously planned. Existing cars would still be allowed to continue driving as normal.

It’s worth noting that these plans have not yet been progessed as legislation, so there’s a chance that the goalposts may move again before being finalised.

With the proposed ban being brought forward to a date 15 years from now, there is the potential that resale values of petrol, diesel and hybrid-powered cars could start to be affected in the next few years, affecting the cars we drive now and will be buying next. This will only increase if and when almost inevitable changes start to be made to financially penalise combustion-engined cars. Whether it’s clean air zones, additional taxes on petrol and diesel fuels, road tax or other measures, local and central governments will almost certainly start introducing measures to ‘incentivise’ drivers to choose electric cars.

So what should power your next car?

Of the 2,000 drivers surveyed by GAP insurance provider, 30% admitted that they wouldn’t know whether to opt for a petrol, electric or diesel-powered vehicle when looking to buy a new or used car.

Younger drivers aged 18-24 were even less sure, with 41% admitting that they wouldn’t know which fuel to opt for.

Because of this confusion, 31% said that they were keeping their current car for longer than they usually would – with 33% of male and 29% of female respondents saying this.

In addition, more than half of those surveyed said that they found the prospect of electric vehicle ownership ‘too daunting’ to think about buying one as their next car.

Ben Wooltorton, chief operating officer at, said: “From 2035 or sooner, drivers will only be able to buy electric or hydrogen cars. However, looking at the results of this survey, this looks like a big leap of faith for many consumers who are clearly unsure about what type of car they should be buying.

“You can understand why people are feeling insecure as we were told not long ago that we should all buy diesel, and now diesel is being banned. It seems that many drivers need greater confidence that the issues around running an electric car are resolved before they will commit.”

Most buyers not yet ready to go fully-electric

Currently, fewer than 3% of all new cars sold are electric, while for used cars it’s less than 1%. This will increase significantly over the next few years as more manufacturers start offering more electric models at more affordable prices, but clearly there is still a long way to go until electric power becomes the default option for UK car buyers.

As well as a lack of suitable cars to choose from, almost every survey conducted on electric cars highlights the lack of recharging infrastructure as a key stumbling block to buyers choosing an electric vehicle instead of a petrol or diesel model.

Of course, it’s not unusual for car buyers to be unsure what sort of car to buy – we get loads of questions along the lines of “should I buy a petrol or diesel car?” and have done since this site was founded more than eight years ago. Unfortunately, there’s no convenient data available to check these latest survey results against buyers’ uncertainty five or ten years ago.

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Stuart Masson
Stuart Masson
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

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