Both drivers and auto manufacturers are placing more and more importance upon a vehicle's efficiency ratings. With that in mind, it's no wonder that diesels and hybrids are becoming increasingly popular. Each one will see you spending less on fuel, but which new car is right to meet your needs?

Why Should You Buy a Diesel?

Diesel engines are reasonably similar to traditional gasoline engines. However, they eschew spark plugs in order to burn fuel more efficiently. This means that drivers won't notice many differences in their drive when they switch from gas to diesel – the most discernible being a simple change in how the engine sounds.

That makes diesel a more familiar choice, and one which is perfect for drivers who spend plenty of time on the road. Due to their increased efficiency, drivers sitting behind the wheel of a diesel-powered vehicle will experience vastly improved fuel economy on the highway, though the difference is less significant for city driving. A diesel engine will also typically require less long-term upkeep than their gas alternatives.

Of course, diesel engines do cost a little more than gas engines, and diesel costs more than gas. Additionally, you'll miss out on the environmental benefits that come with a hybrid.

Why Should You Buy a Hybrid?

Essentially, a hybrid car uses two powertrains, but the term is usually reserved for those that combine a traditional gasoline engine with an electric motor. Some hybrid vehicles allow drivers to plug them in to an electrical outlet, but most use both the combustion engine and 'regenerative braking' to restore battery power.

Regenerative braking converts the kinetic energy produced when you apply the brakes back into battery power. This is part of the reason why hybrid vehicles are so popular among city-dwellers, who will naturally use the brakes a lot more during frequent stop-and-go driving. In these situations, the battery can take over most of the work, so many hybrids actually boast stronger efficiency ratings in the city than they do on the highway – something unheard of before the technology was developed. A hybrid actually creates energy without using fuel, making it more environmentally-friendly than either gasoline or diesel vehicles.

However, the gasoline engine will need to do most of the work during long-distance highway drives, essentially nullifying the benefits of a hybrid. The battery also somewhat restricts your range, and battery failure – though extremely unlikely – will immobilise the vehicle entirely.

When deciding between a hybrid and a diesel vehicle, you simply need to take your own driving habits into account. If you cover plenty of long distances then you'll probably be best with diesel; if you rarely drive outside of towns or cities, go for a hybrid.