If you're one of the many considering buying a new car in 2010, there are a couple of questions you'd be foolish to ignore: how green is it? And how much is it going to cost me? Not really something you want to think about when you're lusting after that sports car of your dreams? Well, here's why it should be...
Increases in vehicle tax (or road tax) mean you can now pay anything up to £435 a year, depending on the fuel, age and CO2 emissions of your vehicle. So it makes sense to head for the greener end of the spectrum and if you choose a car with 100g/km2 rating or less (Band A) you avoid paying vehicle tax altogether.
Anyone buying a new car now has to pay a showroom tax for their first tax disc - the normal vehicle tax applies in subsequent years. This showroom tax is hefty and can be as much as £950. Again it depends on CO2 emissions, but the good news is that if you buy a car with a 130g/ km2 rating or less, you won't have to pay any showroom tax at all.
Average fuel prices are now £1.19 a litre for unleaded petrol and £1.20 for diesel, with further 1p increases planned for October and January. So checking out fuel economy is vital and the greener cars tend to use less fuel.
Shopping around for the cheapest petrol station can save you a lot as well - and I don't mean driving around them all! You can easily locate the best deal by entering your post code on petrolprices.com. When I did a quick check yesterday, there was a difference of 4p a litre between the cheapest and most expensive petrol stations near my office.
Buying a green car is still not cheap, but it's cheaper than it used to be and even the petrol heads on Top Gear have found some models to get excited about. In addition to the hip electric and alternative fuel cars on the market, there are many cool diesel models with particularly low emissions that might prove more practical, depending where you live.
The Ford Fiesta 1.6 Duratorq TDCi, Seat Ibiza 1.4 TDI 80PS Ecomotive and the Vauxhall Corsa 1.3CDTi (95PS), all have a CO2 ratings of 98g/km2. Better still, there's the Smartfortwo coupe or cabrio diesel, with a rating of just 88 g/ km2. Or how about the petrol driven Toyota iQ 1.0 VVT-I, with a rating of 99g/ km2...
Interestingly, research by the AA shows that women are less keen to buy diesel than men; they tend to steer clear. But if you have a diesel hang-up, it's a good time to overcome it.
Stay ahead of the game
If you live in London, you'll probably know that vehicles with a 120g/ km2 rating or less already avoid the congestion charge. The European target for CO2 emissions on cars is also 120g/ km2. If I was a betting man, I'd wager that all cars higher than this will be taxed even more heavily in years to come, so bear that in mind.
Green cars can prove cheaper to insure, but it always makes sense to gather in a few quotes before buying. Moneysupermarket.com reckons you can save £180 a year on average by shopping around for car insurance, so make sure you leave yourself enough time to do so.
Finally, before making a purchase, why not investigate car sharing or joining a car club? These options aren't available to everyone, but you can visit Carclubs.org.uk to find out more about what's happening in your area.
So, a lot to think about - but are you thinking greener now?