As everyone, including car makers, will agree, preserving the environment is one of our most important challenges. So it would seem only logical that the environmental impact of a car should be one of your main priorities. Unfortunately, things are not always quite as easy as they seem.

For one, recent research has offered some remarkable counter-intuitive findings on the subject and a used car may actually be a better choice than a new one.

What’s more, when it comes to a product as expensive as a car, you will sometimes need to compromise on environmental considerations. Which is why we have compiled some insights on how to keep your costs low and still find the ecologically friendly car that’s right for you.

Why ecologically friendly is also economically friendly

When thinking about an ecologically friendly car, a used one will probably be the last thing that comes to mind. Two remarkable articles in technology publication Wired and science magazine Scientific American have effectively busted this myth and shed new light on the topic.

According to the authors, the potential savings on petrol you’ll make with a new car are not the only thing that needs to be taken into consideration. Rather, the environmental footprint of a car is determined to a significant degree by the energy required for its production and its shipment to car dealers across the globe. As a study by Toyota found, these can be as high as almost a third of the total carbon dioxide produced over the lifecycle of a vehicle. With a second hand model, these emissions have already been accounted for.

So, from an ecological point of view, a used car can be the better solution.

What does ‘used’ mean?

Of course, when we speak about ‘used’ cars, that term can be misleading. There are, obviously, significant differences between a ‘used’ car that is two years young and a fifteen-year old model with more than 100,000 miles on the meter.

Also, when it comes to how ecologically friendly a car is, the model you’re driving is often far more important than the actual age of the car. As Scientific American point out: “If you simply must change your vehicle, be it for fuel efficiency or any other reason, one option is to simply buy a used car that gets better gas mileage than your existing one.”

How to take informed decisions

It is becoming increasingly clear, that the term ecologically friendly is a complex one and that you need to take several factors into consideration, especially when buying a second hand model:

  • Use online resources to calculate the petrol emissions of a particular model.
  • Go for brands that have a reputation for building ecologically friendly vehicles.
  • The older a car, the less its production costs weigh into its ecological footprint, but the higher – presumably – its petrol emissions. Try to find a sensible balance between these two aspects.
  • Especially if you have limited financial means at your disposal, an ecological decision may equal an economic one – after all, the lower your emissions, the lower your fuel costs.

The more you take these aspects into consideration, the more you’ll be able to find a car that is both cheap and ecologically friendly – and the more you’ll be able to contribute to the environment even on a shoestring budget.