Greener Cars: What to Do?

Many people say you should get rid of your gas-guzzler and buy a “greener” car. But if you trade before your current vehicle dies a natural death, it may get driven by someone else. Plus, manufacturing a new car takes a toll on the environment, too. What’s the best thing to do?

Tom Fuller
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Looking at the big picture, the more money a society spends on automobiles and driving, the more pollution it causes. This includes manufacturing greener cars, not-so-green cars, burning fuel, and more. Worn-off tire rubber diffuses into the air and soil. Highways and roads exact higher tolls from the environment than they do from motorists.

Drivers who buy more cars than they need, or who buy new cars for social status, or who drive more than necessary, are adding to the problem, no matter how green their cars are.

Overall, whatever costs the least is the best thing to do for the environment. Individuals can help by spending less on driving, one way or another. Expenses can be calculated in each situation. One can see if a car with better gas mileage will save money, considering all the factors: the after-trade price, the cost of maintenance and repairs, the number of miles that must be driven, etc. If it will not save money, keeping one’s current vehicle will tend to be better.

Hybrid cars (which use electricity in addition to gasoline) are good choices if you need a new or almost-new vehicle. If you don’t, you could look at less-expensive used cars. One of these days, those hybrids will be among them.