An eco-friendly approach to buying a car

After a house, a car is likely the second biggest purchase you'll ever make. Before you sign on the dotted line, take time to assess your needs so you can make an informed decision that's right for you and the environment.

An eco-friendly approach to buying a car

Key questions to ask yourself

If you are thinking about buying a car, ask yourself if you really need one or if you'd be better off taking a taxi or occasionally renting a car. Here are some important point to ponder:

Can you afford to run a car?

  • Apart from fuel, the less obvious on-road costs include depreciation, regular servicing, repairs, registration and insurance – plus the time you spend on cleaning, servicing and fueling your vehicle.

Can you afford to buy a new car?

  • While you may enjoy significant savings by purchasing a good second-hand car, remember that more recent models are less polluting than older cars, making them more environmentally friendly.
  • Also, the use of lighter materials and better technology in newer models mean you'll likely spend less on fuel with a new car.

If most of your journeys are city-based, do you really need an off-road vehicle such as a four-wheel drive?

  • The operating cost for large four-wheel drives can be three times that of the smallest cars.

How many passengers do you usually carry?

  • Larger, heavier vehicles use more fuel than smaller, lighter alternatives. Big cars can cost two and a half times as much to run as their smaller counterparts.
  • If you need a large car occasionally, it may be more economical to buy a smaller one for everyday use and rent a larger model when necessary.

Could you manage with a smaller car?

  • A vehicle's fuel economy improves by seven percent for each 10 percent of weight removed from its body.
  • A smaller car also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Is an automatic vehicle better than a manual one?

Is a diesel engine better than a gas-powered one?

  • Although diesel contains more energy per litre (1/4 gallon) than gas, and diesel engines are more efficient to run, it is a more polluting fuel than gas.

Should you buy or rent a hybrid car?

  • A hybrid car uses both electric and gas engines in combination and cuts fuel consumption significantly. It is worthwhile finding out whether the expected fuel cost savings would cover the higher cost of the technology for any hybrid car you consider.
  • In general, hybrid cars cost more to purchase up front.

Would it be cheaper to take a taxi than drive when you need to go somewhere?

  • If you use a car only occasionally, taxis are cheaper than owning and running one.

Is four-wheel drive overkill?

Four-wheel-drive vehicles are popular for their towing power and off-road performance. However, before deciding to buy one, you should consider these issues:

  • They can use more than twice the amount of fuel vs. smaller vehicles and, in general, cost more to run with regards to tires and servicing.
  • They don't fare well in terms of safety. Large models, which may weigh more than 2 tons (over 4,000 pounds), take longer to stop and are more likely to roll over. Also, in the event of an accident, vehicles fitted with bull bars are more likely to kill pedestrians.
  • Off the road, four-wheel-drive vehicles can cause environmental damage by churning up unstable soil.

Buying a car represents a major financial and environmental decision. For that reason it's worth taking your time to ensure that you will be happy with your choice in the long run.

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