What’s greener – buy a new green car or fix up an old one?

Toy carOk, so obviously it’s far greener to use public or human-powered transport but if you have to drive, what’s better: to drive a more-energy-efficient new car (I’m thinking a standard petrol/diesel car, not an electric or hybrid one) or fix up and use an old car instead?

I suspect it’s a balance of unnecessary consumption and waste versus ongoing inefficiency – but does anyone have any details about which is the better option? Are there any other benefits to a new car than that?

Does the amount of miles you do make a difference? And what about the electric or hybrid cars – do they swing the balance in the favour of a new car, despite the resources it takes to make them?

I would love to hear what everyone thinks about this.

(Photo by cwcav, c/o sxc.hu)

Related Categories


Search for other related items

17 Responses to “What’s greener – buy a new green car or fix up an old one?”

  1. sarar says:

    I’ve always had old cars that my mechanically minded dad keeps running. I don’t do many miles so I doubt fuel efficiency would make that much difference to me. If I was having to pay a garage to fix it though I might think again – although I find it easier to afford small amounts when I need little bits of work doing than finding the amount of money I would need to buy green new one.


  2. dan b says:

    “Manufacturing accounts for approximately 10 percent of the energy consumed by an automobile during its life cycle. Gas burned by the engine makes up almost everything else” according to this Wired article:


    Though that doesn’t account for the materials the car itself is made of (those could mostly be recycled at the end of the car’s life, at least in theroy), if that’s true then a more energy efficient new car is better if you can afford it. A new car probably has cleaner exhaust too. And it’ll likely have more safety features than an old car.

    When I had to face this issue a couple of years ago I ended up getting a second hand hybrid.

  3. Jane K says:


    A lesser known alternative is a car club, where you pay a membership fee then book a car on the web for short sessions, the cars are parked near to where people live or work and you only pay for the length of time you want the car. No repair bills, fuel costs or insurance costs.
    Have a look at our website http://www.carplus.org.uk for more info and to see if the is one near you.


  4. I have a fifteen year old vw polo which I will keep getting repaired for as long as is viable. I use second hand/recycled parts where practical …the car has a catalytic converter and an ecoflow device fitted to the fuel line and its emissons are extremely low compared with any car. The car does about 40/45mpg depending on road conditions. I take the view that we need to keep as much out of landfil as possible and re-use whilst being aware of emissions.New cars , if you can afford one are not necessarily any more reliable than a cared for older one …new cars are more expensive to fix and far less well built than many older vehicles.
    I have membership of a car club http://www.clubpolo.co.uk which gives me great advice and access to new to me parts. Society is too disposable yes new cars may be greener but consider greening what you have and cutting waste. Cars do not need to look pristine but need to be looked after not put on a par with disposable nappies or sanitary protction …but dont get me started on that subject …..love and good wishes Fiona and 15 year old vw polo cl mk3

  5. GirlGenius says:

    Old cars are more recyclable because they contain less plastic and more steel, so it’s getting rid of a new one at the end of its life that you need to be worried about. Also because of the prevalence of plastic in newer cars they are less repairable – mechanics tend to replace parts in them rather than fixing them.

    Maybe you could consider ‘greening’ an old car, by converting it to LPG for example; or using biodiesel?

    Also, there is quite a market for old car parts amongst enthusiasts for particular brands – old peugeots and old VWs are examples. So instead of dumping your old car you can sell it off bit by bit.

  6. vivi says:

    Some of the newer cars are not built as strong as the older ones. they tend to dent or smash easier.

    • I quite agree Vivi …it is to do with the notion of them being disposable. I personally found nothing more scary once than being in a tinny fiat cinquecento driving along the motorway.

    • David C says:

      This has nothing to do with being disposable. They have designed to crumple easier by law now as it reduces the risk of serious injury/death to pedestrians when they are hit.

  7. if you can afford to buy a new car all well and good but for those of us who can’t or choose not to …and ahem my car is now 17 and not a hunk of junk. It is as economic to run as many newer vehicles and I personally will be sticking with the car I know for as long as possible rather than risking buying someone else’s problems with a newer model. A big problem with vehicles is people don’t take care of them by keeping them serviced etc and have bigger more gas guzzling vehicles than they need. Vehicles are disposable sadly and whatever age they are they are a large thing to dispose of at the end of the day so I take the view of looking after what I have and having donor parts when at all possible Fiona x

  8. Ruzanna says:

    i wonder how much this little smart car would cost?

  9. craig says:

    Get a bike and trailer. Bicycles are far less dangerouse to other road users, far less dangerouse to the environment, very good for keeping fit, good for peoples confidence and idependance, very cheap compared to other forms of transport, and unlike cars they engage people in the real world rather than transporting them around in a box. And with a bike trailer and pannier bags you’ll be able carry around virtually anything you would transport in a car boot.
    Car manufacture, and use, also has a huge part to play in wars, unfair labour, the destuction of natural spaces (for roads/factories), and unexcusable capitalist greed.

  10. Alice says:

    George Monbiot’s article on the government’s Car Scrappage Scheme says:

    “A paper published in 2000 by the journal Transportation Research comes to even grimmer conclusions: that replacing old cars with new ones increases carbon pollution. Because between 15% and 20% of a car’s emissions are produced during its manufacture, the optimal age for a car, the paper says, is 19 years.”

    Incidentally, if you want to know the carbon emissions for any car on the road in the UK, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders have a one-stop site

  11. They say a new car probably has cleaner exhaust. And it’ll likely have more safety features than an old car.But I’d rather recycle an old one.

  12. I quite somehow agreed with this stuff that affording a new car is good enough but I am scared to taking any risk to bought a newer model with some problem but these possibilities are seems to be same with an older or recycled car.

  13. Agrade Auto says:

    why buy new, when used can do…..

  14. I totally agree in buying used auto parts or recycled parts.

Leave a Reply

Your name
Your email (it will not be published. If you want people to contact you, leave your email address in the message too.)
Your website (if you've got one)