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Assuming that you're not going to scrap your old vehicle, the environmental consequences of that purchase will be the same whether you own the vehicle or someone else does. Your old car is probably going to be operated for it's economic life, and it will polute accordingly.

When you purchase a new vehicle, you are making a decision that will have environmental and economic consequenses for the life of the car. By buying an environmentally desireable vehicle sooner, you put one more on the road. You also encourage the manufacturers to make more fuel efficient cars by increasing sales in this market segment.

So I would say that buying your new, environmentally desireable car sooner you are unequivocally making a positive move. On the other hand, I ran my last car the customary 10 years before I made the move.
 
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