Why should you think about energy when buying a new or used car? In the long run, doing a little bit of shopping and research BEFORE you buy will save you both energy and money.
Most of us only think about how much we can afford when shopping for a car. But if the car we purchase is a gas-guzzler, it will soon be costing us a lot more each and every week.
So, if you're buying a new or used car - Think Energy Efficiency!
Tips About Buying a New Car
Before heading out to the dealerships, take some time to do some comparison shopping. Pick up a copy of Consumer Reports or automobile magazines that compare the models. Read about various vehicle "families" and try to determine which size is best for your needs: do you need a subcompact, a compact, a sedan, a two-door?
Compare the mileage ratings for the various cars or trucks you're considering. All new cars have window stickers listing the latest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's mileage ratings. These ratings are scientifically determined using state-of-the-art testing facilities that run the cars and trucks through simulated city street and freeway driving. The mileage you get on your vehicle, however, may differ from this rating, depending on your driving habits and the actual vehicle itself.
The EPA mileage rating is a good guide about how much the car will cost you to run. If, for example, you had to make a choice between a sport utility vehicle car rated at 20 miles per gallon and a car rated at 30 mpg, it would be wise to go with the more efficient car with better mileage.
If you traveled 12,000 miles per year at a cost of $2.50 a gallon of gasoline, the 20-mpg SUV will cost you $1,500 to operate. The 30-mpg car would cost $1,000, so you would save $500/year with the 30-mpg car. If you own the car for five years, you will have saved $2,500!
You may also want to consider a hybrid vehicle. While the initial cost may be higher, it will pay itself back in a few years by gasoline saved. Mother Earth News in its October/November 2005 issue provided this payback chart on hybrids versus other vehicles.
|Vehicle mpg||21 mpg||46 mpg||55 mpg|
|Savings vs. 21 mpg||---||$4,658||$5,298|
|Savings vs. 21 mpg||---||$4,728||$3,954|
|Total Savings Over 10 Years||---||$10,287||$11,701|
21 mpg = Average fuel economy of U.S. passenger vehicles.
46 mpg = Average fuel economy of the Accord, Civic, Escape, Insight and Prius hybrids.
55 mpg = Average fuel economy of Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.
Besides efficiency and mileage, also consider how much of a car do you really need. If you will never venture into the backwoods and ride on hilly, dirt roads; if you only use the car to drive to and from work on freeway...do you really need a sport utility vehicle? SUVs, because of their weight and horsepower, are some of the most inefficient vehicles on the market. They typically get only about 16-18 mpg or less around town and 20-24 mpg or less on the freeway.
A smaller car that gets excellent mileage may be what you need for that short daily commute. Most people don't need a super, ultra-fancy luxury car to go back and forth the 10 or 20 miles to their jobs. And if you do commute very long distances, mileage should be a prime consideration along with vehicle comfort and safety.
Sample U.S. EPA Mileage Sticker
Another consideration before you buy a car should be how much of the vehicle can be recycled after it has out-lived its usefulness. Auto companies are now making vehicles that can be nearly 100 percent recycled: the plastics can be chopped up and reused, the light metal can be stripped off and reused, the steel can be melted down and re-forged. So rather than being thrown into a scrap yard to sit and rust, vehicles are disassembled, and the parts recycled back into raw materials.
Finally, when planning a new car purchase...consider an alternative fuel vehicle as your main commuting car. The majority of automobile trips are made by a single person who drives less than 25 miles a day. This is the perfect range for an electric or hybrid vehicle. If you own a company with a fleet of vehicles, you may want to consider compressed natural gas (CNG). The cost per mile of using CNG is typically lower than gasoline, and you can refuel them overnight while they are in your parking lot.
Tips About Buying A Used Car
If you're thinking about buying a used vehicle, be sure to have the car carefully inspected by your mechanic to make sure it is running properly. A car that is improperly tuned or that has a bad engine or transmission will run poorly and use energy inefficiently.
Used vehicles have many more years of life in them, and driving them helps extend their total energy life cycle - the amount of energy needed to get the raw materials to build and deliver the vehicle to the consumer.
You may consider buying a used hybrid vehicle, but be aware that these cars may carry a premium because they are in relatively high demand.