4 Problems With Low-Mileage Diesel Cars (Explained)

Thinking about purchasing a diesel car with low mileage, or perhaps a diesel vehicle to drive to and from work?

Although low mileage might be a good selling point for many vehicles, it isn’t the greatest feature to see on something with a diesel engine.

Consider these 4 issues when you’re looking to buy a low-mileage diesel.

1. Frequent Short Trips Are Hard On The Diesel Particulate Filter

Because of their power and durability, diesel vehicles are often the best choice when you need to go on a long trip.

This is why you tend to see more diesel cars when you’re headed out on a camping trip or driving through less populated areas.

On the other hand, frequent, short trips can actually cause problems for diesel vehicles.

Slower speeds and cooler temperatures have a negative effect on the diesel particulate filter.

This filter is more prone to clogging when it’s only used in low-mileage situations.

The result is an orange or red dashboard light making an appearance.

When the orange light appears, drivers have to set aside time to go for a long, higher-speed drive in order to de-clog the filter. Unless you’re someone who likes taking long drives regularly, this can be an annoyance.

Generally speaking, low-mileage driving is just harder on the filter.

It may end up with a shorter lifespan due to more frequent clogging, meaning you’ll have to spend more money on replacing the part.

2. You May End Up Paying More For A Dormant Vehicle

In many situations, “lightly used” and “like new” items are very desirable.

If you can’t get something new, the next best choice is getting something that has only been used a small amount.

However, that concept doesn’t apply to diesel vehicles.

Those who don’t want to purchase a new diesel vehicle are better off looking for one with a decent number of miles on it.

While this might seem like a strange concept, diesel vehicles with low mileage are often used for shorter, more frequent trips.

As previously mentioned, this kind of use can be rough on diesel engines.

On the other hand, diesel vehicles with a higher number of miles are more likely to be used as they are intended.

Ultimately, that means the engine will be in better shape.

The problem with this is that people who aren’t familiar with diesel vehicles may think that fewer miles are a good thing.

Because the car is “lightly used”, it may be priced higher than those with higher mileage.

However, the condition of the vehicle might actually be worse. 

Because of that, it’s important to aim for a diesel vehicle with somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 miles for the best results.

3. High Temperatures May Result In Increased Wear And Tear

There’s a big difference between a vehicle getting warmed up for a long trip and pushing it to higher temperatures frequently, but for short periods of time.

The latter can be rough on a diesel engine, causing some parts to age faster than they would under the intended conditions. This doesn’t just apply to the diesel particulate filter, but also to other parts within the diesel motor.

Generally, this is because diesel engines just aren’t built for taking back and forth from work or regular trips to the store.

Like many things, using a diesel car outside of the manufacturer’s intention results in more problems.

While most gasoline-powered cars function well for shorter trips, diesel engines function more like an oven than a microwave.

They work best when they have time to warm up before spending some time at a higher temperature.

Allowing that temperature to remain high for a longer period of time also keeps the diesel particulate filter from clogging.

Always make sure that an older diesel car starts every time before buying it.

4. When Used As Low-Mileage Vehicles, Diesel Engines Require More Maintenance

All engines are going to require maintenance. As mentioned previously, low-mileage situations are harder on a diesel engine.

Because of that, there will be parts that wear at a faster pace – meaning they will need to be replaced more often. 

Additionally, it also means you’ll need to provide more maintenance to the vehicle.

For example, it’s recommended that you change the oil on a diesel vehicle at least once every year. When a diesel car is used for low-mileage driving, you’ll likely have to complete oil changes more often to keep things working smoothly.

Overall, that results in more effort and money spent on keeping your car in good shape.

Compared to electric or gasoline-powered cars, diesel vehicles are not a cost-effective choice for low-mileage driving.

If you’re looking for a diesel vehicle, it’s best to plan plenty of longer trips to avoid the problems that come with driving shorter distances more frequently.

This is one of the common issues with older diesel cars.

General Pros And Cons Of Low-Mileage Diesel Cars

Let’s start with the pros.


Diesel vehicles are often chosen for their torque and power.

It’s a well-known fact that diesel is often the choice when drivers want to be able to pull trailers or boats.

However, those aren’t the only benefits that diesel vehicles can offer.

Diesel is also considered to be a more environmentally-friendly choice than regular gasoline.

When it comes to low-mileage diesel cars, it is actually possible to get a good deal on a used vehicle.

The biggest concern for these vehicles is often related to accelerated wear and tear as well as issues with the diesel particulate filter.

However, these issues can be avoided by gaining a strong understanding of the vehicle’s history.

When purchasing a used diesel car with low mileage, make sure you can get a good look at the care of the vehicle. If you’re purchasing it from a previous owner, get a sense of how much the owner knows about taking care of a diesel vehicle.

As long as the car has received decent care, you may be able to get a newer diesel vehicle at a solid price without the concerns for extra maintenance.


  • Frequent short trips are hard on the diesel particulate filter.
  • You may end up paying more for a dormant vehicle.
  • High temperatures may result in increased wear and tear.
  • When used as low-mileage vehicles, diesel engines require more maintenance.

What Do The Reviews Say?

“In fact, several cars holding records for high mileage have diesel engines, like the famous Mercedes-Benz 240D that logged almost 3 million miles before being retired.”

[Source: Progressive.com]

Generally speaking, you can get a lot more use out of a vehicle with a diesel motor than a standard gasoline car. This longevity helps drivers to save money on vehicle purchases while creating less waste that eventually ends up in landfills.

“Whether hyperbole or harbinger, diesel engines are one tool in the fight to reduce auto emissions.”

[Source: cars.usnews.com]

In addition to the other benefits discussed here, diesel engines are a decent tool for protecting the environment.

Auto emissions are less of an issue with diesel cars, meaning a higher percentage of them on the road would decrease negative impacts on the planet.

What’s The Resale Value Of Low-Mileage Diesel Cars?

There are a lot of diesel vehicles out there. Consequently, one low-mileage diesel vehicle may not have the same resale value as another.

To provide an idea of the resale value of some low-mileage diesel cars, let’s take a look at the cost of a variety of diesel vehicle models and ages.

Year Make/Model Mileage Price
2022 RAM 3500 Laramie 7,648 $79,990
2021 GMC Sierra 3500 Denali 22,768 $80,992
2020 Chervrolet Silverado 3500 LTZ 18,741 $73,565
2019 Ford F350 XL 21,618 $79,981
2018 RAM 2500 Tradesman 20,900 $52,895
2017 RAM 2500 Laramie 29,635 $73,589


Reduced Mileage May Mean Problems For Diesel Car Owners

3 Diesel Car Buying Tips To Keep You On The Road

Pros And Cons Of Diesel Cars

Diesel Cars: Pros And Cons

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