“Should I buy a Petrol vs Diesel 4×4 vehicle?”

If you love off-roading in the outback, you’ve probably debated this question many times. The rugged terrain and challenging weather in the bush demand the right engine to hold up to the conditions.

In this article, we will compare petrol vs diesel 4×4 vehicles in Australia to help you make an informed decision when choosing the best engine type for your off-roading adventures.


Petrol vs Diesel 4×4: Which Engine Is Right for Your Needs?


1. Diesel v Petrol: Fuel Efficiency

Diesel vs petrol 4×4: Which is more fuel efficient?

The clear winner? Diesel engines.

Fuel efficiency is affected by engine technology, fuel quality, and driving conditions. Even so, diesel engines offer up to 50% better fuel efficiency compared to petrol engines, meaning your tank of gas will help you go further in between fill-ups.

Petrol stations in the outback can be few and far between, so the longer you can go on a tank of gas, the better. Although the cost of diesel fuel is higher initially, especially with a turbo diesel vs petrol, diesel’s vastly superior fuel efficiency can translate to long-term savings.

Diesel is also considered a safer option for fuel in terms of fires in the outback. Did you know an uncovered petrol tank has a vapour trail that is at risk of igniting from up to 20 metres away?

If you’re refuelling a petrol tank by a campfire, practise extreme caution and only refuel when you are a safe distance away from any flames.

Related Reading: A Guide to Preparing Your 4×4 for an Off-Road Trip


2. Diesel v Petrol: Torque and Power

Higher torque is beneficial for towing, hill climbing, and driving on loose surfaces — all of which are crucial for a smooth off-roading trip in the outback.

Petrol engines excel in terms of acceleration and high-speed performance. A turbo-diesel will improve performance, but it often comes at the cost of a more sluggish feel when driving on-road.

Even though petrol engines are known for their higher torque and performance, there are some scenarios where low rev torque is preferred.

For off-roading, the low rev torque of diesel vehicles makes them ideal for scrambling over rough terrain or rocks without stalling. A petrol engine is more susceptible to stalling when trying to maintain momentum over obstacles.

Regarding beach or sand driving, diesel v petrol engines perform fairly similarly.

Related Reading: 15 Tips for Beach Driving in Australia


3. Diesel v Petrol: Reliability and Maintenance

Engine longevity is affected by many factors, such as driving habits, maintenance schedules, and the quality of replacement parts.

Diesel engines have long been considered extremely costly to maintain. Diesel typically needs their oil changed roughly every 5,000 km and a new oil filter after 10,000 km.

For some drivers, the fuel efficiency of a diesel v petrol engine outweighs these maintenance costs.

Still, if the alternator goes out on a petrol engine, you may find yourself stuck in the outback, unable to get to the nearest service station using just the battery. On the other hand, a diesel engine could still get you to a service station, even without the alternator functioning.

4WD SUV with camper trailer.


4. Diesel v Petrol: Environmental Considerations

Fuel production, noise pollution, and emissions are all key environmental considerations when choosing between diesel vs petrol 4×4.

Diesel engines often conjure up images of thick, black smoke or deafening engines, leading to heavy opposition to diesel engines, particularly in urban areas.

However, recent years have brought extensive updates and technological advancements to both engine types to reduce their environmental impact.

Today’s diesel is far different from the models just 10 years ago that were stinky, rattly, and known for spewing out plenty of particulates.

Many diesel engine manufacturers have prioritised a variety of environmentally-friendly updates, such as:

  • Improved, electronic fuel injectors that help prevent over-fuelling, thereby reducing black soot
  • Electronics that precisely meter engine temperature
  • DPFs (Diesel Particulate Filters) are designed to help remove excess particulates in the exhaust

In future years, expect to see a growing number of hybrid 4x4s that combine the best aspects of diesel and petrol engines.


5. Diesel v Petrol: Exhaust Temperature

If you mostly stick to on-road outings, this next comparison isn’t as important. However, if you’re a 4×4 enthusiast who lives for wild off-roading trips through the outback, exhaust temperature requires serious consideration.

A diesel engine produces a significantly lower exhaust temperature — 200 C° lower! — than a petrol engine.

Why does exhaust temperature matter?

If you’ve been through the outback, you know about the spinifex grass that often grows amongst the tracks.

If this spiky, dry grass gets bound up in the wheels or near the exhaust, it can ignite a fire. With petrol engines’ higher exhaust temperatures, they pose a heightened risk of a dangerous fire.


Final Thoughts on the Petrol vs Diesel 4×4 Debate

If you’ve found yourself debating between diesel vs petrol 4×4 vehicles for your off-roading excursions, we hope you found this comparison helpful.

Choosing the right engine type for a 4×4 vehicle in Australia can make the difference between a successful, memorable outback adventure or a frustrating, even dangerous expedition.

A diesel engine for a 4×4 is a popular option, but the choice between a diesel or v petrol engine comes down to driving habits, intended usage, and your personal needs.

Overall, diesel engines have higher fuel efficiency and the ability to adapt to a wide range of conditions but come with increased rebuild costs.

Still, debating between Petrol vs Diesel 4×4? For help choosing diesel vs. petrol for your off-road vehicle, consult with a local 4×4 mechanic for personalized advice and recommendations.

As Perth’s Specialist 4×4 Mechanics, our experts are here to help with all your questions. We can help you choose between a diesel v petrol engine, discuss your current 4×4 setup, go over your off-roading plans, or set up a service maintenance schedule for your vehicle.

For over a decade, we’ve been 4×4 authorities in Perth and our talented team is here to give you unbiased advice and exceptional service. Call us today on tel (08) 6454 9916 or book an appointment with one of our Perth 4×4 mechanics.

Alex Coughlan

Owner and Founder of Elite Tune
Alex Coughlan is a seasoned professional and veteran off-road, camping, and adventure enthusiast with a passion for automotive performance. With a career spanning over 2 decades, he has made a significant impact on the 4WD modification and servicing industry, particularly since the inception of Elite Tune.