secondhand vehicle

Second Gear: 4 Environmentally-Friendly Reasons For Buying A Secondhand Vehicle

Can buying, and driving, a used car ever really be an environmentally-friendly choice? With the massive environmental impacts of driving, manufacturing and disposing of cars and parts, it may seem counterintuitive that purchasing a secondhand (pre-owned) vehicle could be good for the planet. 

However, repairing and maintaining an existing, used car rather than buying a new one can be the most environmentally-responsible decision for many people who rely on driving. With smart cities cleaning up their act by revolutionizing and making public transport greener, it’s time for commuters to pay greater attention to the climate crisis when considering their car choices.

secondhand vehicle

In this article, we’ll explore four environmentally-friendly points for choosing a secondhand vehicle over a brand new model, to make driving a bit more sustainable.

1. Choose the cleanest commute you can 

Ultimately wherever you live, work, travel to or visit, the greenest driving choice is to not drive at all and instead, use public transport, cycle or walk whenever possible. If you must drive, and a car is your preferred vehicle, it’s important to consider the negative impact driving can have on our planet in today’s context and urgency to tackle climate change. 

If you choose to drive, you should consider the level of carbon emissions you emit, your fuel consumption and the general age or condition of your car on any journeys. For instance, if you are commuting to an office in a gas-powered vehicle, you will be emitting a certain percentage of carbon dioxide emissions on both your outward and return journeys. For just a 14km route both ways, your car journey might have emitted 9,100 milligrams of carbon. If you can, drive less often and remember your emissions will vary depending on the car you choose to operate.

2. Compare the eco-benefits of Secondhand Vehicles to gas guzzlers

Since the US Congress passed its landmark Clean Air Act in 1970, and granted the US modern-day Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the legal authority to regulate pollution from cars, the level of fumes and pollution in cities has massively improved. According to official reports from the EPA today’s new cars, SUVs and pickup trucks are about 99 percent cleaner for common pollutants (hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particle emissions) compared to vehicles driven in 1970. 

Despite improvements in emissions and better regulations, your car’s environmental credentials remain as important as ever. In fact, ongoing debates argue whether new cars (hybrids or electric) are actually worse for the environment than secondhand vehicles. Looking to the future, even though EVs and hybrids are considered by many to be greener, climate advocates emphasize not just making gas-powered cars more efficient, but reducing the number of car trips taken, investing in public transport and walking.

3. Inject new life into old cars for greener rewards

If you do need a car to get around, breathing new life into a secondhand vehicle through repair work and reusing parts can be the best and most rewarding path forward. Giving your old car a new lease of life can be a greener option assuming time and expertise is spent safeguarding the car’s service history and maintenance. If you want to ensure your high-quality car runs efficiently, and for longer, it will require regular servicing and ongoing attention must be paid to managing the car’s energy consumption.

Keeping an old vehicle running well past its normal lifespan is one of the most impactful things you can do for sustainability. Plus, reports state classic cars might be better for the environment than some modern vehicles. The average classic car emits 563 kg of carbon dioxide emissions per year compared to a passenger car which has a 6.8-tonne carbon footprint post-production. Fixing up and restoring a second-hand or classic car can be preferable when you know you are benefiting the environment by recycling used car parts and reducing waste. 

Rather than sending the vehicle to a junkyard, restoring your used car conserves resources and energy needed to manufacture a new vehicle. Here are some tips for injecting new life into an aging car:

  • Get regular tune-ups and oil changes: This maintenance keeps the engine optimized for minimal emissions and fuel consumption.
  • Replace worn parts: Swapping out bald tires, broken belts, weak batteries, old spark plugs, etc. lets you extend the usability of your existing car.
  • Upgrade the stereo and electronics: A new sound system, backup camera and chargers make the interior feel fresh.
  • Improve quality: New struts, shocks and suspension components bring back that new car smoothness.
  • Detail the exterior: A thorough cleaning and touch-up of the paint makes even an old body look sharp.
  • Swap in new seats: Replacing worn upholstery and carpets helps renew the interior.
  • Install efficiency modifications:. Adding features like low-rolling resistance tires improves environmental impact.
  • Convert to a greener fuel: For diesels, switching to biodiesel can further lower emissions.

With some DIY fixes and upgrades, an older car can feel young again while avoiding the waste and carbon footprint of manufacturing a new vehicle. Extending the lifetime through repair and restoration is always the greenest choice.

4. Shop for used hybrid or EV models 

When shopping for a secondhand vehicle, it’s important not only to look at the mileage and condition, but also the engine and emissions. Opting for the most eco-friendly drive you can will maximize the environmental benefits. If you are searching for a used car with lower emissions, consider investing in a hybrid or electric vehicle. Although these might be more expensive, a used hybrid or electric vehicle (EV) still cuts down emissions. You should also check the EPA sticker for fuel economy and greenhouse gas ratings. Even among gas cars, choosing one with better mpg and emissions scores will pollute less.

You should also think about the size of your car, as this will literally make a ton of difference. While electric car sales are doing a lot of good and selling well globally, the positive impact is outstripped by the popularity of new SUVs. Large trucks and SUVs generally consume more fuel and spew out more emissions. In 2022, SUVs worldwide contributed a reported 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions which counteracted the benefit of any EVs. Therefore, always pick smaller, lighter models and downsize if you don’t need the extra interior space.

It’s also important to consider potential eco-friendly modifications. For example, retrofitting a diesel car with modern emission control filters or converting it to biodiesel can reduce emissions. Similarly, despite their increased mileage, newer model years often feature advanced technologies like fuel injection, leading to better fuel efficiency and cleaner combustion. By focusing on these aspects, and prioritizing efficiency and emissions, a carefully selected used car can be as eco-friendly, if not more, than many new models.

In Summary

Although the premise of driving seems altogether anti-ecofriendly, with some thought towards buying or driving a secondhand vehicle rather than a brand new vehicle, it is possible to drive in a more environmentally friendly way. Significant resources and emissions are saved by avoiding new car production, not to mention the waste reduction by breathing new life and rejuvenating an old car.

So, if driving is a necessity for your job or essential for many other reasons, you can start your engine and drive feeling better in a used car rather than a bigger, newer or bulkier gas-guzzling one.

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