Particulate matter of vehicle exhaust is known to contain carcinogenic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and is suggested to increase lung cancer risk in humans. This study examines the differences in diesel and gasoline‐derived PAH binding to DNA in a human bronchial epithelial cell line (BEAS‐2B). Particulate matter (PM) of gasoline exhaust was collected from passenger cars on filters and semi‐volatile compounds on polyurethane foam (PUF). The soluble organic fraction (SOF) extracted from the particles was used to expose the cells and to perform PAH analysis. Gasoline extracts, benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) and reference materials (SRM 1650 and 1587) were used to study dose‐dependent adduct formation in BEAS‐2B cells. The levels of DNA adducts were in good accord with the 10 DNA adduct‐forming PAH concentrations analyzed in the extracts. Gasoline extracts, SRM 1650, SRM 1587 and B[a]P formed DNA adducts dose‐dependently in BEAS‐2B cells. The time‐dependent DNA adduct formation of 5.0 µM B[a]P was lower than that of 2.5 µM B[a]P. The results of this study indicate that reformulated and standard diesel fuels formed about 11‐ and 31‐fold more adducts than gasoline, respectively, when PAH–DNA adduct levels were calculated on an emission basis (adducts/mg PM/km), whereas on a particulate basis (adducts/mg PM) no difference between the diesel and gasoline extracts was observed. We conclude that the genotoxicity of diesel fuel is based on higher particulate emission rates compared to gasoline emission and although the concentration of PAH compounds was higher in diesel particulate extracts, DNA binding by the gasoline particulate‐bound PAH compounds was more pronounced than that by the diesel particulate‐bound PAH compounds.