$5 Gas? Yup: It's Diesel


Not two months after Dave reported $4.20 for a gallon of premium — we should be so lucky today — I pulled in to the local BP to fill up the 2008 Volkswagen Touareg V-10 turbodiesel we’ve been testing, and a gallon of diesel cost $5.059. Geez. Throw in another buck and you’re Grand-Slammin’ at Denny’s.

I shouldn’t be so surprised. AAA pegged a gallon of regular in Chicago, where Cars.com is located, at $4.20 per gallon today. That ranks it the seventh highest of 10 cities surveyed by the EPA. (Even worse: Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Eat it, Lakers fans.)

Evidently, I live in a particularly gas-starved section of town, as a gallon of regular was $4.55. Even so, diesel seems to be a comparative deal where I’m at: It runs $4.79 nationally, or 18% more than regular ($4.06), according to AAA’s data. The Midwest has roughly the same 18 percent premium, yet my station’s $5.05 diesel was just 11% more than its 87-octane. The added cost of filling up with diesel is even less when you take into account the fact that, like the VW Touareg I was driving, most diesel cars and SUVs on the market today are of the luxury variety, so non-diesel versions would require premium gas. Using national averages, that means the savings over their diesel counterparts is down to about 7%.

Diesel is getting expensive faster than regular gas in part because demand is so high. A dozen years ago it ran $1.24 a gallon. (A Denny’s Grand Slam, incidentally, was $1.99) That represented just a 1 percent premium over regular, which made diesel engines and their comparative mileage gains much more attractive. Even so, today’s drivers are still using it. At the station this morning, the cashier said diesel has been over five bucks for a month now, but a lot of people — particularly truckers — still buy the stuff.

So we’re curious: Diesel users, what are you paying? How much more is it than regular? Let us know in the comments below.

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Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price.  Email Kelsey