The average household will do around 10,000-12,000 miles a year in an average car that does about 40mpg. That equates to £1,770 in fuel, £1,830 in car owning/maintenance, and around 4 tonnes of greenhouse gas. Fancier and/or bigger cars will generally account for much, much more.

Of course, not owning a car at all is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly option there is. I was in my thirties before I owned my first car and managed pretty well up until that point with occasional hire cars. However, these days, with more gear and children, I do see a car as an important asset, especially for long journeys.

So assuming you do actually need a car at all, the three tonne lifestyle would see you doing 6,000 miles a year (or less), in a more efficient car – lets say 50 mpg (or even better, in an electric car). This is a saving of £1,800 a year – £708 in fuel, and £1,092 in car ownership/running costs – and around two tonnes of greenhouse gas less too.

Here are some top tips for making this happen, and grabbing yourself an extra £1,800 plus, as well as shaving two tonnes off your carbon footprint.

Change your car

In general, bigger cars and older cars will use a lot more fuel. If you have an old banger, or if you have a thirsty beast, then you will probably save a lot of cash by switching to a more efficient model. I own a 7 year old VW diesel (1.6l Passat Bluemotion).  I bought it because I wanted to get more miles per litre on long journeys and with plenty of luggage space. It did 12 miles per litre (55 miles per gallon) last year, and I intend to run it more or less into the ground (even though it is an ‘evil’ diesel) as it is pretty cheap to run. I try not to use it round town, which keeps the fuel economy reasonable.

Be warned, though that much of the cost of motoring is often down to depreciation, so it’s worth doing the sums carefully before spending out cash in a newer car. On depreciation, the A.A. estimates that

The average new car will have a residual value of around 40% of its new price after three years (assuming 10,000 miles/year) or in other words will have lost around 60% of its value at an average of 20% per year.a car will lose around 60% of its value in the first three years of its life.

That is quite a hit own a new car, as most cars can go for 10 years or more. Of course, an old car that needs constant repairs and does 20 miles to the gallon is also a big drain on the finances. From a financial point of view, there is a probably a ‘sweet spot’ for most cars, that isn’t too old or too new.

From a climate change point of view, a brand new car can account for anything between 5 tonnes and 35 tonnes of greenhouse gas, depending on the size, model and weight. So that’s clearly a big hit too. The LiveLight calculators average the greenhouse gas of each model over an average 10 year expected lifespan of a car. Crashing a car is therefore very carbon heavy, not to mention dangerous and expensive!

If you want to explore changing your car, then you might want to consider one of the following top green cars courtesy of

Ultimately it’s got to be something that suits you, though, and miles per litre or miles per gallon isn’t the only way to make some major savings in cash or carbon terms. See the next points!

Change the way you drive

Your driving style has quite a large impact on who much fuel you use. In essence, lower revs and less engine noise mean lower fuel consumption. The most efficient speed is 56mph for most engines, and if you aren’t in a hurry on the motorway, it’s a very relaxing pace. This guide from the Energy Savings Trust sums up the changes you can make pretty neatly.

Design out costs and carbon

The daily commute is a necessary reality for many, and can take up a staggering amount of time and money. But if you are in a position to leave the car at home, then the savings can be considerable. I once saved a significant amount of cash towards an extended period of travelling and general fun by ditching both the public transport commute and monthly gym subscription in favour of a 5 mile bike ride to work.

Apparently, the average UK commute is the longest in Europe, at 8.5 miles and 45 minutes each way. The excruciatingly low miles per hour rate is doubtless due to the horrendous peak hour traffic that blights UK cities. In an average 40mpg car with a very average total running cost of 30p a mile, that , commute equates to 1,785 miles per year and £535 in car costs. Include £2 a day parking and the costs rise by another £420 to £955 a year. It also equates to another 315 hours or  8.5 weeks of additional, unpaid working weeks per year.

Home working and telecommuting are increasingly popular ways of cutting out the commute and increasing both productivity and quality of life.. Any way that you can design your working life to minimise commuting will make a big difference – although it clearly isn’t always possible in some jobs. If it’s impossible to avoid the commute then it may well be worth looking at a more efficient car, as the savings potential is good.

I’ll be adding more thoughts to this blog as I go, and if you have any thoughts or tips for saving cash on vehicles, then feel free to share them here….

Good luck!

Mr GreenBeard


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