Thursday, February 10, 2011

#7 Which car is greener, the new or used?

I recently purchased a car because my old one didn't suite my needs anymore. I'm in snow country Colorado, and I drove a minivan. Really? I traded it in for a 2005 Subaru Outback. I'm already glad I did, but was it a green purchase?

One viewpoint is that it is. The Prius is thought to be one of the greenest affordable cars out there, but it isn't without it's flaws. Some research suggests that a Prius would have to go over 46k miles before it made up for the energy and resources used to make it, versus buying a used car.  Not just any used car of course will do.  Some say the greenest cars you can buy right now are mid-90's economy cars, like the Toyota Tercel, or the Geo Storm.

The other train of thought is my purchase wasn't green.  That car manufacturers don't care so much about what people buy when it comes to used cars, and that I wasn't flexing my consumer muscle.  Manufacturers are looking at what people buy to make choices as to what to make, and my purchase didn't contribute to that.

I will say this.  My own thought is that I made the right purchase for myself.  I don't have a carpayment, because I didn't over extend myself on a new car.  I'm not exposing myself or my children to the new car smell, which really is toxic fumes. My car already has 100k miles on it, it's paid it's debt to the resources it's made, and will continue to do so because Subaru makes such long lasting reliable cars.  It will probably give me another 100k miles or more before it dies.  With it still getting about 28 city, 32's not too bad on the mileage either.

So what do you think?  Will your next car be used, or new?


1. Wired
2. The Greater Greater Washignton


  1. I love this post! We just sold our 97 Subaru Forester (love, btw) and got a 2008 Mazda 5. We also don't have a car payment, it gets amazing mileage and is quite roomy! We are even able to use it when we do work on the house instead of renting a not-so-green pickup from the local hardware store!

    (That and green technology in cars is really taking off; who's to say 5 years from now there won't be bigger better greener options that we'll be able to take advantage of.)

  2. You are so right Emily. I think if green options are what people are looking for, perhaps a little more thought is needed instead of the default Prius. Who knows what they'll have in the next few years when it's time to buy a new car again.

  3. Used is best for us. I have always bought used, and saved so much money as a result! I think you voted with your dollars by not going up the brand new counter. If your not convinced, think about writing a letter to your manufacturer of choice and tell them that if their car was more energy efficient, then you would have purchased new instead of used. Maybe that would have more net impact of purchasing new anyway.

    I hope by the time I have to purchase another car, great new green cars will be on the market.



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