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Choosing a greener car

Fuel consumption label
Fuel consumption label

Fuel consumption labelling on all new cars aims to help car buyers choose a car. Model-specific labels on the windscreen of new vehicles give an indication of how many litres of fuel the car would use to travel 100km in particular driving conditions, i.e. a combination of city and highway. (Actual consumption will depend on a range of factors, including traffic and weather conditions, vehicle maintenance and driving style.)

The label also indicates the amount of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, that will be emitted – the lower the better. Visit the fuel consumption website for more information.

The greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption information on the label is the same as that in the Green Vehicle Guide.

Fuel consumption guide

When buying a used car, refer to the Australian Government's Fuel Consumption Guide Database. It provides comparative data on the fuel consumption of many vehicles sold in Australia between 1986 and 2003. When comparing vehicles of the same fuel type, the higher the fuel consumption the higher the greenhouse gas emissions.

Fuel type

Different fuel types also result in different levels of air pollution and greenhouse gases. Provided they are operating properly, diesel, LPG and CNG engines emit fewer greenhouse gases than conventional petrol engines. CNG also results in less air pollution than regular fuels. Diesel produces more particles than other fuels. Electric vehicles produce no emissions themselves, however greenhouse gases and air pollutants are emitted when electricity is made from fossil fuels such as brown coal. Visit Green Wheels, an online guide enabling consumers to assess greenhouse emissions of all passenger cars sold in Australia.

Different cars have different impacts on the environment. The size, weight and engine type of a car affect its fuel consumption and hence its emissions. Emission controls also differ between cars.

In general, larger cars are less efficient because they are heavier and need more energy (fuel) to move around. Modern engine technologies mean that newer cars tend to use less fuel than older cars of the same size. However, the added weight and power required for automatic transmission and extras such as air-conditioners can reduce the efficiency gains of newer technologies.

The emission control technologies used in a car affect the amount of air pollution emitted. For example, catalytic converters which were introduced to Australian cars in the mid-1980s substantially reduced air pollution levels. Emission standards for cars have been getting stricter over the past 20 years and will continue to improve. Some overseas cars are equipped with pollution controls that are better than current Australian requirements.

If you have a choice between cars, choose the most efficient and least polluting car that meets your particular needs for everyday motoring. Choosing a newer car over an older car of the same size will tend to mean less air pollution (provided the newer car is well maintained).

Green Vehicle Guide

When buying a new car, refer to the Australian Government's Green Vehicle Guide. It rates all new cars on their greenhouse and air pollution performance and gives them a star rating out of five. The higher the rating the better. The guide also provides a relative fuel consumption figure.

Half of the Green Vehicle Guide score relates to greenhouse and half to air pollution. So a car that uses a lot of fuel and therefore creates a lot of greenhouse gases might still get a reasonable score if it has particularly good air pollution emission controls. Likewise, a car with low fuel consumption but only average emission controls would also get a reasonable rating.

Estimate your fuel emissions

A Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) is very fuel efficient and creates substantially less carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than the average vehicle on our roads. The Greenwheels website features:

  • Buyer’s Guide – what is the most suitable low emission vehicle for your needs?
  • Compare Your Car – vehicle comparison calculator
  • Top-rated LEV Vehicles

To estimate the fuel consumption and environmental impact of your vehicle compared with a Low Emission Vehicle (LEV), visit Green Wheels.

 

Cars for parents

 

As with any purchase, buying a family car should revolve around its main purpose: transporting the family. This is especially so for young children whose needs include child restraints If you already have child restraints, take them with you when looking at cars to buy to ensure they will fit. If you are just starting a family and/or need new restraints, look at the options on our website.

When choosing your next vehicle, think about safety, space, anchor points and seatbelts.

Safety
  • Choose a car with a good safety rating. While this may seem a daunting task, RACV has some great tools to help you. For new vehicles check out its ANCAP safety rating, and for older vehicles look at the Used Car Safety Rating.
  • Airbags are an important part of the vehicle safety system. However in a crash they go off with some force, so children 12 years and younger shouldn’t be seated in the front if there is a spare position in the rear. 
  • The good news is that research indicates a child can sit next to a rear seat curtain airbag.
Space
  • Check to see if the rear seats can take two or three restraints, and that a front passenger will still have enough leg room with a restraint fitted.
  • Two-door vehicles can be very difficult for fitting restraints. Getting children in and out of restraints can also be very awkward.
Anchor points
  • Look at the number and position of anchor points. Restraints use a tether strap connected to these anchor points. A poorly positioned anchor point can mean the tether strap can severely reduce luggage room, e.g. for prams and shopping.
  • Make sure there is enough room between the back seat and the anchor so that the tether strap can be adjusted properly.
  • People movers seem ideal, but some do not have anchor points for each seat position. Also the tether strap and size of some child restraints can reduce the seating capacity, so make sure this is not an issue.
  • If buying a new car, ask the dealer for fittings for each anchor point as they are often not supplied.
Seatbelts
  • A car with a centre lap/sash seatbelt in the rear is safer than one with just a lap belt. Fortunately newer cars usually have lap/sash belts all round.
  • Make sure the seatbelts are long enough. Some are too short to thread through child car seats when in the recline position.

* R.A.C.V. Finance Limited ABN 82 004 292 291 Australian Credit Licence No. 391488. Years of membership benefit applies to all consumer loan applications (subject to approval) made directly through RACV. Any loan application introduced through a broker/intermediary will not be eligible to receive the discount.

^^ If you are not completely satisfied with your RACV Finance personal loan, you can return the full loan amount and, if the loan is paid out and finalised within 21 days from the date the loan was funded RACV Finance will refund all application fees and any interest charged; waive the early termination fee (ETF); and cancel any Consumer Credit Insurance or Shortfall Insurance policy taken out and refund all premiums to the loan, product coverage will cease. The Satisfaction Guarantee is not available in conjunction with commercial loan products, leases or loans introduced by Brokers/Dealers.