Is it Greener to Buy a New or Used Car?

Have you ever wondered if buying a new vehicle would be more environmentally friendly than driving your older model? Every year there are new cars released with better miles per gallon and more hybrid or electric system features. But, there may be a downside to this new technology. We’ve found that new may not necessarily be better, and here’s why.

Fuel Efficiency

With electric cars becoming more common and hybrid systems being available from every major manufacturer, these cars can seem like a no-brainer from a miles-per-gallon (MPG) standpoint. They make it more affordable to travel long distances and do not burn up as much gas in the city.  But, there are other factors that should be considered. These vehicles have multiple battery systems that are not as easily disposed of compared to traditional gas or diesel engines. This technology is still relatively new so the final resting place for these batteries doesn’t exist yet.  Also, with most electric cars pulling their charge from a coal-based power grid, they’re not as “green” as they appear on paper. Although more and more regenerative power solutions are being utilized in most major cities, it’s not 100% clear that these vehicles are greener overall than their traditional counterparts.

Carbon Footprint

When thinking about a car’s carbon emissions, MPG normally comes to mind, but it’s not the only factor. Toyota found that 28 percent of a car’s carbon footprint comes from its initial construction at the manufacturing plant and its transportation to dealerships. This includes power used from the electric grid during manufacturing and gas used from planes, trains, and trucks throughout the shipping process. When you purchase a new car, over a quarter of its total emissions will have already been released before it even hits the road. This is also true for electric and hybrid vehicles, and perhaps even more so. The carbon dioxide used to construct the new technology inside these cars makes a big impact on the environment and there isn’t much data on how long it would take for the MPG savings to make up this loss. Ultimately, if you are trying to reduce the total carbon footprint of a vehicle, it comes down to reuse.  If we can reuse materials that have already been constructed, the demand for new construction will decrease, and therefore, release less carbon emissions.

So of course, while not too many people are out there reusing car parts, it might help to take care of them and keep your car clean! :)

Driving Green

So considering this data, is driving a used car a better option, even though the MPG isn’t as high? As with most things, it depends. There are many factors that go into measuring just how large your vehicle’s carbon footprint is but most of them come down to one thing. The way you drive will be the biggest factor to how big your car’s carbon footprint is. Here are some ways to increase MPG and keep carbon dioxide levels low:

  • Reduce speeding or heavy acceleration

  • Reduce driving with unnecessary weight

  • Keep the engine properly tuned

  • Maintain proper routine maintenance (oil changes, new tires, etc.)

  • Use the correct oil grade

  • Keep tires properly inflated

  • Use cruise control

  • Reduce unnecessary drag (top cargo boxes, bikes, etc.)

  • Make each trip count (not taking multiple trips)

  • We’re not 100% sure but having a clean car could help reduce your carbon footprint AND it feels GREAT!

Check out more eco-friendly car tips.

These factors can go a long way in reducing the amount of carbon your vehicle emits, whether it’s new or used.

Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle (& Research!)

The important thing is to make the most of your decision, so if you are going to purchase a new car, thorough research is key. If you are looking for a change, but don’t want the expense of a brand new car, you can always trade in your car for a more fuel efficient vehicle. Find a car that has better MPG and releases fewer emissions than the one you have now. Also make sure you dispose of your current car responsibly.  Older cars can be donated to an auto-donation center. Not only is this tax deductible, but it allows for the car to be used again. And even when a car becomes undrivable, it can still be used in a “green” way by taking it to a local salvage or junk yard. This allows for the car’s usable parts to be reused for maintenance or the restoration of another vehicle.

We wish you the best on your journey of finding a new or used vehicle!  

Whatever you decide, don’t forget to stop by Gleam for an eco-friendly car wash to show your new or used car some love.