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Gasoline vs. Diesel: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 29, 2023
Gasoline is a light, volatile fuel for spark-ignited engines, while diesel is a heavier fuel for compression-ignition engines with higher energy density.

Key Differences

Gasoline is a refined petroleum product composed of hydrocarbons, volatile and suitable for internal combustion engines. Diesel, also derived from petroleum, is denser and oilier, containing longer hydrocarbon chains.
Gasoline engines use spark plugs for ignition and generally operate at higher RPMs. Diesel engines rely on compression ignition, are more robust, and typically have greater torque at lower speeds.
Gasoline engines are less efficient due to their method of ignition and combustion. Diesel engines, on the other hand, are more efficient, extracting more energy from the fuel due to higher compression ratios.
Gasoline engines emit more CO2 and hydrocarbons, contributing to air pollution. Diesel engines, while more efficient, produce higher levels of NOx and particulates.
Gasoline is primarily used in passenger vehicles, motorcycles, and small machinery. Diesel is favored in larger vehicles like trucks, buses, and in industrial and agricultural machinery.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Composition

Lighter hydrocarbons
Heavier hydrocarbons

Engine Type


Energy Efficiency

Less efficient
More efficient


Higher CO2, hydrocarbons
Higher NOx, particulates

Primary Use

Passenger vehicles
Heavy vehicles, machinery

Gasoline and Diesel Definitions


Combustion Fuel.
Gasoline engines ignite fuel with spark plugs.


Heavy Fuel.
Diesel engines power large trucks and buses.


Energy Source.
Gasoline is a primary energy source for transportation.


Oil-Based Fuel.
Diesel is a less volatile fraction of petroleum.


Vehicle Fuel.
Gasoline powers most cars and motorcycles.


High Energy Density.
Diesel provides more energy per gallon than gasoline.


Petroleum Product.
Gasoline is refined from crude oil.


Industrial Use.
Diesel is commonly used in heavy machinery.


Volatile Liquid.
Gasoline evaporates quickly when exposed to air.


Compression Ignition.
Diesel engines compress air to ignite fuel.


A volatile mixture of flammable liquid hydrocarbons derived chiefly from crude petroleum and used principally as a fuel for internal-combustion engines.


A diesel engine.


A flammable liquid consisting of a mixture of refined petroleum hydrocarbons, mainly used as a motor fuel; petrol.


A vehicle powered by a diesel engine.


What is gasoline?

A light, volatile fuel for internal combustion engines.

How is diesel made?

Also from refining crude oil, but through a different process.

What are the main uses of gasoline?

Mostly in passenger vehicles and small machinery.

Where is diesel predominantly used?

In heavy vehicles, buses, trucks, and machinery.

Does gasoline emit more CO2 than diesel?

Yes, generally.

What is diesel?

A heavier, oilier fuel for compression-ignition engines.

How is gasoline produced?

By refining crude oil.

Can gasoline be used in a diesel engine?

No, it can cause damage.

Are gasoline engines more efficient than diesel?

No, diesel engines are generally more efficient.

Which fuel is denser, gasoline or diesel?

Diesel is denser.

Is diesel safer to handle than gasoline?

Yes, as it's less volatile.

Can diesel be used in a gasoline engine?

Again, no, it's not suitable.

How does weather affect gasoline and diesel?

Diesel can gel in cold weather, while gasoline is more stable.

Do diesel engines emit more NOx than gasoline engines?

Yes, they do.

Which is more expensive, gasoline or diesel?

It varies, but diesel is often more expensive.

Can gasoline and diesel engines be equally powerful?

Diesel engines are generally more powerful, especially for torque.

Are there renewable alternatives to gasoline and diesel?

Yes, like bioethanol for gasoline and biodiesel for diesel.

Is the maintenance cost different for gasoline and diesel engines?

Diesel engines often have higher maintenance costs.

Are there environmental concerns with both fuels?

Yes, both contribute to pollution and greenhouse gases.

Do both fuels come from the same crude oil?

Yes, but they are different fractions of the oil.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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