The total carbon impact of a car is a combination of its weight and mileage. Excluding hybrids, whose batteries and dual train add weight, and cars with carbon fiber parts, which reduce it, manufacturing a car emits as much CO2 as approximately .276 gallons of gasoline. If you are willing to break out a calculator and figure it out mathematically, divide the amount of gasoline you save in a year driving a new car (assuming it uses gas) by the carbon cost of manufacturing it. If you want a general rule of thumb, a new gasoline-powered car should be at least nearly as light as your old one and get better mileage. Lean toward a new one because recently manufactured cars also reduce other harmful pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and smog. A natural gas car or a diesel car that takes B100 biodiesel is probably worth trading for if you can find alternative fuel stations.
If you don’t know your car’s weight, I would say stick with your old car. If everyone were to trade in his or her old cars for newer hybrids, we would then have expended energy on cars no one is driving and expended additional energy to create all these new hybrids. Biome’s first citation gives good information on assessing individual cases. I’d consult that link.
It’s tough to give you a well thought out recommendation without knowing more about your existing car, or what your possible price range for a new car would be. If your current car is a gas guzzler that leaks oil everywhere, and you have enough money saved up for a new, cleaner car, then I think it makes sense. But if you have a compact car and are hard pressed for money at the moment, then buying a new car might not be the best idea.
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