-

Buy a fuel efficient car

Choosing a more fuel efficient version of a car that fits your needs can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. The more fuel efficient the car, the less fuel it burns, so the less CO2 it produces. If everyone buying a brand new car chose the most fuel efficient car in its class, CO2 emissions from new cars could be reduced by up to 24% and save up to three months worth of fuel per year.

Six useful tips when buying a car

  1. Consider the car you want
  2. The engine matters
  3. Petrol or diesel?
  4. Look for the label
  5. Ask about fuel efficiency
  6. Consider vehicle tax rates

1. Consider the car you want

There are two things to have in mind when choosing the car you want – smaller cars tend to be more fuel efficient; and there can be wide variety in fuel efficiency for cars of a similar size/class.

First, think what you need the car for. How many seats and what size boot do you need (e.g. Do you really need six seats for a family of four? Could you do with a smaller boot if you only use the car for shopping?). Then decide on the class of car you want.

Next, check which car offers the best fuel efficiency and lowest CO2 emissions.

top ↑

2. The engine matters

Once you've decided on the type of car, check out the different makes, models and engine options. Most models offer a range of engines that vary in fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions.

top ↑

3. Petrol or diesel?

Filling a car fuel tankPetrol and diesel engines have different effects on the environment. Engines powered by diesel generally produce less CO2 but more air pollutants than their petrol counterparts. When deciding which to choose, as a rule of thumb, if most of the driving you do is long distance or motorway driving, then consider a diesel engine for fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions. If you spend more time in town, where air quality is a greater consideration, then a petrol engine may be better suited.

top ↑

4. Look for the label

Fuel efficiency ratingsMost new cars in a car showroom have a colour-coded fuel efficiency rating like fridges and washing machines (like the one shown, right). The coding is from band A to band M, with bands A and B representing cars that emit the least CO2, as well as having lower car tax. The lower the emission band, the lower the tax you'll pay. The label is also a guide to the running costs you can expect for that car over 12,000 miles, so you can compare how much different cars cost to run.

From November 2009, the fuel economy label became available for used cars as well as new cars, so look out for it in showrooms. The used car fuel economy label applies to cars up to two years old, though data will be available back to 2001 for dealers who choose to label older cars.

top ↑

5. Ask about fuel efficiency

Ask your car sales staff about the efficiency and environmental performance of your chosen car and the helpful extras available. For example, 'particulates' are emissions released when fuel is burned that are harmful to local air quality. But on some cars with diesel engines, an optional extra called a DPF (diesel particulate filter) can be fitted to reduce these emissions. As petrol cars produce fewer particulates, filters are not generally needed.

top ↑

6. Consider vehicle tax rates

Annual vehicle tax rates for cars registered on or after 1 March 2001 are split into 13 bands depending on CO2 emissions. The amount you'll pay depends on which band your car is in. The lower a car’s emissions, the lower the vehicle tax payable on it. 

Different first year rates of Vehicle Tax will be introduced for cars registered from 1 April 2010, to send a stronger signal about CO2 emissions at the time of purchase Vehicle tax for cars in bands A to D – emitting less than 130 grams of CO2 per km - will be zero on first registration.

To ensure that first-year rates work effectively, at the same time there will be some changes to the rules about six-month tax discs and refunds.

top ↑

Rate this page

Efficiency chart

Compare car CO2 emissions

Use these 4 tools to find the CO2 emissions and fuel costs of new and used cars.