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New Hybrid vs. Used Car: What's Better for the Environment?

When you're in the market for a car, what's the most eco-friendly option?  Buy a new fuel-efficient car, such as a hybrid, or buy something used?

According to an article in Wired, by buying a used car, you'll be putting less carbon dioxide into the air - which is a plus.   However, the used car you're buying must be fuel efficient.  It wouldn't be greener to buy a used truck than it would be to buy a new Prius.  A used car would ultimately have to average better than 37 MPG to match the Prius' energy consumption.

Slate did a great analysis last year answering this exact question.  (Also as a side note, I wanted to link to another Slate article debunking the absurd myth that a Prius is worse for the environment than a Hummer)  The author's conclusion was this:  "Here's the bottom line: The Prius is by no means a perfect car, but it's certainly tough to beat in terms of cradle-to-grave, pound-for-pound energy consumption."

The Slate article also mentions that the price disparity could be a deal-breaker, too.  With the money you're saving by purchasing a used car instead of a new hybrid, you could use that money to upgrade to an EnergyStar fridge.

Thinking about buying a used car but unsure as to what its fuel efficiency is?  FuelEconomy.gov can help you out!