So let’s look at the old car first. I can get a nice old car for £500, I have done for the last few years, cars that in their day cost a great deal of money but are now out of favour.If my car were to get 35 miles to the gallon – not a great deal by modern standards (and actually a little less than I do get but it makes the maths easier). Say I was to do 500 miles a month with 35mpg and petrol at £1.40/litre that would mean I would need 14.29 gallons for my monthly mileage (1 gallon = 3.79 ltrs) so 54 ltrs. which is £75.80 per month. My tax would be £220 /year which equates to £18.33 / month. Insurance generally costs around £35/month and then you have to take into consideration general wear and tear and other costs such as MOT and any work that needs doing for it. (MOT – £40, assume £100 to sort niggles and £100 wear and tear, on brakes, fluids, tyres, seals etc. = £20/month)

So my old car, with nice specifications costs me somewhere in the region of £150 a month – no small amount of money when you consider I’ve spent £500 on the car in the first year this means £2290 in total so over a 5 year period (being that of the warranty of most new cars) this would mean £9450 – let’s say £10,000 for sake of argument, and the odd major blip to do with the engine or such like. At this point I own my car and could sell it for a similar amount to that which I paid provided I have kept it in good condition. (I could also decide to convert my engine to lpg gas power which would decrease emissions as well as lower the cost of fuel. This conversion would cost around £1000)

To get a new car of equivalent initial value at the time as mine is no small cost, but let us take one that is a hybrid to give the full advantage of a new car.. Were I to take a BMW (the same make as my old car) this would cost £48000 and get 44.1mpg so let’s not take that or the comparison would be not worth making. Let’s take a VW Golf Bluemotion. Reasonable spec and around £8000 outright buy price. For an extra £300 you can get a service warranty for 30000 miles or 3 years, whichever is the shorter. Taking my 500 miles a month figure you would not exceed the 30000 in the 3 year period. As the car is new you would not have to pay for an MOT test and let us presume the tax is £0 (I don’t think it is, but some hybrid cars are so we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt). Let’s also give it an inflated mpg because I know some claim to be able to do over 70. So taking 70 mpg baseline x my 500 miles I would need 7.14 gallons half the amount and only £37.90/ month for fuel. So for my first 3 years I’m paying £9364 in purchase price and fuel, add £1260 for 3 years worth of insurance (although with the car being worth far more the insurance will be higher) = £10624. The subsequent 2 years will cost more, I will no longer receive free servicing and if I do not get the car serviced I will lose further value on it – already my car will have depreciated by >20% just for having used it at all. However the car should be reliable so let us half the £500 I have allocated to my older car for niggles. The insurance cost is likely to stay steady because although the car depreciates in value and I get a no claims bonus the cost of insurance is usually rising, and I was generous at the beginning so you’ll have to allow me this one! So £250 niggles, £840 insurance, £910 fuel, £100 x2 wear and tear = £2200 +£10624 = £12824 full 5 year cost. Rounding up as I did with the old car analogy it’s £13,000

The difference in latent financial cost is therefore £3000 however there is of course the environmental issue of my old car’s emissions, these have a much higher concentration of CO2 compared with a modern car, some of which have very little. Though I could get the lpg conversion for £1k. It is estimated that 11% of carbon impact comes from production of the car with the rest coming from the usage. So were you to buy a hybrid car for example it is likely to be more environmentally efficient than a used car. However in the example of the VW Golf as I have given I am having to come up with £8k just to start the process, if I were to go for the finance option of paying every month I would pay a great deal more in total – somewhere around £10k and if at any point I missed payments I would effectively own nothing. This does not detract from the environmental argument but even were I to look at a used hybrid car I am looking at around £5000 minimum, even factoring in a part exchange on my old car at full value that takes it down to £4500.

So using this rather basic example green cars are indeed cheaper to the environment than old petrol and diesel cars the cost is not environmental but financial. It is simply not feasible for most people to come up with several thousand pounds, when the squeeze on petrol prices, the loss of earnings due to inflation and the rise in home energy prices are pushing surplus income to a bare minimum. I would I confess reluctantly give up my old car but given the large reduction in monthly expenditure it would certainly persuade me to do so were I to be able to afford it. The lack of being able to save this money where those with more disposable income were able to do so further widens the division between those on the higher incomes from those on the lower ones. It is the same sort of argument with taking the train (where it exists as an option for your journey), or regular buses (should the routes exist that make you able to use these) the cost of these so frequently price the lower-incomed out of the market. Environmental considerations are wonderful if only we could afford them.

Song Of The Day ~ Deacon Blue – Raintown