Buying used cars support clean environment

September 1, 2008 at 1:41 am 1 comment

Used Honda Cars

Used Honda Cars

Feel eco-guilty about buying a used car? Don’t. “Used cars” and “green cars” seem like diametrically opposing expressions but the truth is buying a used car may be a better way to help combat pollution and global warming than buying a new hybrid. At least, for the next couple of years until used hybrids become available.

If you really want to help the environment then you shouldn’t only be concerned with a car’s miles-per-gallon (mpg) fuel efficiency ratio. More importantly, you must consider the total energy consumed and pollution contributed by the entire process of building and operating the vehicle. Looking at the bigger picture, buying a used car may be more eco-friendly.

Take as an example a Toyota Prius, an extremely fuel efficient hybrid averaging 48 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. It takes about 113 million BTUs of energy to make a new Prius and a gallon of gasoline can produce about 113,000 BTUs of energy. This means the Prius has already consumed the equivalent of 1,000 gallons of gasoline before it even leaves the factory. Of course, the fuel efficiency of the Prius makes up for this “carbon deficit” in the long run, after clocking about 50,000 miles in its odometer.

As Matt Power wrote in this May’s issue of Wired, there is a better way to avoid this carbon deficit which comes with producing a new car – buying a used car – a fuel efficient used car. This way, the first owner has already paid for its carbon deficit, or at least started paying substantial installments. Power wrote that if you buy a 1998 Toyota Tercel which averages 35 mpg, a new Prius will have to go 100,000 miles to catch up with the carbon savings of the 10-year old Tercel.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go back a decade in style and settle for an outmoded Tercel. There are plenty of relatively newer models of used cars available today.


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