Hey Mr. Green,
While I very much appreciate your cash for clunkers calculator, I very much doubt I can afford a new car even with a clunker rebate. So I'm shopping for a moderately priced used car. I want high mileage, but also reasonable safety and reliability. I plan to look at back issues of Consumer Reports to try to estimate miles per gallon of various models I'm considering. Is there anything besides MPG that I should consider to keep my carbon footprint low as possible? Anything else I need to look for? Any pertinent websites you can direct me to?
-- Dale, location undisclosed
The most helpful website for MPG of cars both new and used is the EPA’s economy.gov. Go there and click on “find and compare cars.” Your tax dollars at work. (Better check soon, before some yahoos at a town meeting howl “socialism” loud enough to get the site shut down.)
There are indeed huge considerations regarding your carbon footprint besides MPG. The biggest single one is if you really even need to own a car. More and more folks are actually getting along fine without one, with membership in a car-share service, taking cabs and mass transit, or biking.
Besides reducing their carbon footprint, they are saving a lot of money, because costs of owning and operating a car dwarf the cost of the gas it needs. Add to the gas the price of maintenance, insurance, licensing, financing, and, alas, depreciation, it takes a whopping total $9,641 to own and drive a medium-size sedan 15,000 miles per year, according to AAA. Less than a fourth of this cost is for gasoline. The rest is overhead. For comparisons of different-size cars, click here.
Finally, if you do buy a car, try to think about the bigger financial picture. Don’t simply compare cars’ MPG, but their prices too, and considering your entire energy-consumption portfolio If you have enough money to buy, say, a $15,000 car that gets 35 MPG and a $5,000 model that gets 25 MPG, you might be able to reduce your energy and carbon footprint a lot more by purchasing the cheaper model and spending the extra $10,000 on other energy-conserving measures, which could be anything from a new heating system to investing in a renewable-energy company.