Countdown to Earth Day: What to consider when buying a green car

They may not be dominating American roads (or any roads in the world, except for slot-car race tracks), but new electric vehicles are adding one more option to a growing list of potential "green" vehicles on every car buyer's shopping list. Like changing your incandescent light bulb for a compact fluorescent light bulb, the benefits of exchanging an inefficient gas guzzler for a high-mileage car really depend on what vehicle you're driving now, how many miles you drive per day and what your other transportation options are.

Can you, for example, take advantage of a car-sharing service like Zipcar or Car2go? Are biking, carpooling or public transportation an option? If not, what kind of driving do you do most? Highway drivers should think about a clean diesel car because of the inherent higher efficiency of an oil-burning engine. If you commute more in a city – or on a highway, but one that is often chock full of traffic – then a hybrid might be the right move. For the lucky few who have access to charging and live in one of the roll-out markets, a plug-in vehicle like the Chevy Volt or the Nissan Leaf might be exactly right.

Come 2012, there will be even more plug-in options available on the market, so if your current car is in good shape now, waiting 12 months is something to consider. If you'd like to go further into what you should consider before buying a greener car, read this Greenlings article from our archives.

Note: To mark the 41st anniversary of Earth Day* this year on April 22nd, we're running a series called Countdown to Earth Day that we want to be very welcoming to new readers, both in topic and tone. We'll be returning to our Greenlings series for inspiration here, and if you have friends who you'd like to introduce to AutoblogGreen, perhaps these posts and the coming "holiday" will be the spark to get their green car fire burning.

[Photo: Ted Van Pelt]

*Ironically, the apparent traditional gift for a 41st anniversary is land. Since land – earth – is something we can't easily create, perhaps this Earth Day we can give ourselves the gift of stewardship of the land.

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