Monday, May 30, 2011

I bought a new car - should I feel guilty?

The time has come, I bought a new car on Saturday. I drove my dad's car for 15 years - a 1981 Mazda 323. It was time for a change, the car was old, fuel inefficient and with a twice or more reconditioned carburetor I suspect a big producer of pollution. So I bought a new Mazda, but did I need to?

Each of us needs to ask the question: ever since seeing the documentary What would Jesus Drive? I've realised cars are a big idol in the west, a symbol of our control over nature, our own pleasure (how many car adds are about benefits and lifestyle instead of features) and individual autonomy. People who live in a city like Melbourne with (for all its faults) an extensive public transport system can afford to get by a lot without using your car too often. I love the tram and am able to get into work via it, also sports events, concerts etc. Shopping, my sporting involvement and church (from an Anglican point of view I live outside the parish I attend).

How will I drive virtuously? By using it less, especially when public transport is sufficient. Car pooling and offering lifts are also good activities to use a car for. Finally, partly due to car repayments but also given the emissions from air travel, some of our holidays will involve use of the car rather than air. It will be a constant tension - at least until electric cars are mainstream.


  1. Part of the response to responsible approach to car use might include politically supporting approaches to town planning that diminish the need for car use (cf. new urbanism).

    And it's probably good for people to keep in mind that (on average) more than half of the total energy use of a car is found in its production, not in actually driving, so frequent upgrades to more efficient models actually ends up using more energy and resources (and creating more emissions) than driving older cars into the ground.

  2. Interesting fact re car production. Given mine went to the wrecker after numerous re-builds I don't feel so bad.

    I often wonder what will happen to Canberra in a post peak-oil world!

  3. My wife and I have recently been discussing this very thing! I personally believe we need to wean ourselves off oil, quickly, so I am hesitant to coax another petrol-powered car off the production line. I also suspect oil will be unaffordable for most in ten years, which will devalue the existing petrol-powered fleet. However, the flipside is that electric (or hydrogen) car infrastructure isn't quite there yet, and - even if it were - unless it's powered by renewable energy it's probably worse than petrol... not to mention the limited supply of lithium.

    So, for now, we catch the train as much as we can, occasionally drive our 20-year-old (but still efficient) hatchback and wait for the electric car - or better public transport. Plus (I might add) we're looking at developing a small, low-impact transit-oriented village so more people can choose the train AND live in a sustainable community! :)

    By the way, I really enjoyed the 'Consuming Creation' discussion on ABC Radio National's Encounter. It's great to hear that there are like-minded people out there who value Creation and our role in caring for it.

  4. Why, no! You actually did the right thing. If the condition of the old Mazda wasn’t at all good, it’s better that you replaced it. Overhauling an old engine would cost you a lot, and more likely to be repeated again and again, costing you more than you would have had you bought a new car.

    Angelica Emmanuel

  5. I agree with Angelica. It’s better to have it replaced with a new one than to keep having it repaired. If you don’t have enough money to buy a brand new car, there are a lot of inexpensive used cars out there that are still in great shape. You wouldn’t find it difficult to find a car that suits you best. Just do some research first about the cars you find before starting any transactions.

    Sara Anthony

  6. Well, you truly deserve to have a new car! You’ve had your old car for about 15 years. I know how it feels driving an old one while seeing others with the latest cars in town. You just have to indulge yourself with these things once in a while. ;)

    Carry Demaggio