Keep your old car or buy a new more efficient model?

On the Scientific American web site a reader asked a question that has been in the back of my mind for quite a while:

Is it better to drive an older, well-maintained car that gets about 25 miles per gallon or to buy a new car that gets about 35 miles per gallon?

The response was that it is more environmentally friendly to keep your old car running as long as you can. The proviso is that your old car has to be well maintained and continues to run efficiently. The reason is that there are environmental impacts, and quite large impacts at that, associated with the manufacture of new cars. This makes sense but was are the impacts?

Scientific American quote a Toyota analysis from 2004 that concluded that up to 28 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions produced by a car during its life are the result of manufacturing and transport to the dealer. That’s a lot of emissions that can be avoided by keeping your existing car in good working order.

The article makes mention of the extra impact of manufacturing a hybrid vehicle. With a petrol engine and an electric motor under the bonnet the manufacturing of the drive train is more emissions intensive. Add the manufacture of the battery pack and hybrids definitely have some catching up to do once they get on the road.

Source: Scientific American via AutoblogGreen


One Response

  1. What about the green cost of decommissioning older models versus newer models though? I’m sure I read recently that 95 per cent of Renault’s green-line models are recyclable.

    I’m not disputing the argument, it’s just an issue on which I’ve never really been able to come to a conclusion.

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