Sorry to break it to you, but it’s impossible to buy a car that is 100% vegan. However, as it’s often not practical for many people to avoid having a car in today’s society, vegans who need to drive a car should look for the most vegan-friendly car options.
This article explains why cars are not vegan and gives advice on how to buy a new or used car that’s as vegan-friendly as possible.
Are cars vegan?
There are currently no 100% vegan cars. The reasons why cars aren’t vegan are:
- The use of leather in interiors
- The use of animals products in the production of rubber tyres and steel car parts
- The impact that driving a car has on the environment.
However, this doesn’t mean that you cannot drive a car and be vegan. Vegans can drive cars.
According to the vegan society, the definition of veganism is “a way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals.”
If it is not possible or practicable for you to not drive a car (for example if you live in a rural area) then you can drive a car but you should seek to choose a car that is as cruelty-free as possible. Remember that being vegan is about helping animals, not about personal purity!
Even if you were to opt to take the bus or ride a bicycle, these contain steel and rubber so are not 100% vegan either. So you shouldn’t feel bad about buying a car as a vegan. Just try to minimise your impact where you can.
What to look out for when choosing a vegan car
1. Cars without leather
Vegans should look to avoid buying cars that have leather interiors if possible.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 3.8 billion animals are used in leather production every year. As well as the obvious loss of lives, leather production causes deforestation, pollution and water usage. Leather tanning uses toxic chemicals such as chromium, a known carcinogen. Leather production often happens in developing countries like India and Bangladesh, where it is unregulated and so toxic waste can run into nearby waterways.
When buying a car, it’s fairly easy to spot if the seats are made of leather or fabric, although sometimes vegan leather is used which looks very similar to animal leather. You should also pay attention to the gear stick and the steering wheel as these are commonly made of leather.
PETA has published a list of car models that have 100% leather-free interiors. This list is not exhaustive, and you may find other leather-free cars, particularly if you’re outside of the US and are looking for a cheap second-hand car.
If you’re buying a brand new car, you can often request that any leather be replaced with a vegan-friendly alternative. If the company won’t do that for you, then they’re probably not worthy of your hard-earned cash.
2. Vegan car tyres
Most car tyres (or tires in the US) are made using stearic acid, which commonly comes from tallow (animal fat), although it can also be sourced from vegetables. Stearic acid helps to make the rubber tyres strong enough to maintain their shape, yet flexible enough to grip the road.
The only company which offers vegan car tyres is Michelin. They don’t include animal products in any of their tyres. Therefore, if you need to buy new tyres for your car, you should opt for Michelin tyres where possible.
3. Electric cars
Many people choose to go vegan to limit their impact on the environment and to slow down climate change. If you’re concerned about the impact of gasoline (petrol) or diesel cars on the environment, then you should consider an electric car.
Suggested read: Is petrol vegan?
Electric cars reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change and smog, which reduces ecological damage. If you can charge your electric vehicle using renewable energy such as solar or wind power, you can minimise your environmental impact even more.
If you’re looking for a new or used car, you’ll ideally want to look for an electric or plug-in hybrid car with a leather-free interior. Here are some of the best vegan-friendly cars to buy in 2020
Vegan cars list
- Renault Twizy
- Volkswagen e-Golf
- Tesla Model 3
- Nissan Leaf
- BMW i3
Best for one person: Renault Twizy
- Price new from: £11,695
- Price used from: £6,000
The Renault Twizy is the ultimate vegan car. It’s approved by PETA and has no animal-sourced materials used in its construction. Plus, it’s 100% electric, so good for the environment,
This car does have two seats, but one is behind the other and if the driver is tall, then the passenger will feel pretty cramped. Still, if you hate being the designated driver and aren’t skilled at parking, then the Twizy could be a perfect choice. Plus, it’s the cheapest brand new electric car there is.
Best for families: Volkwagen e-Golf
- Price new from: n/a
- Price used from: £14,000
A great used car option, the Volkswagen eGolf is the fully-electric version of the popular VW Golf. This car has been discontinued for 2020 to make room for Volkswagen’s new ID.4 electric vehicle.
For the vegan version of this car, you’ll want to go for the entry-level S trim, which is the only specification not to have the leather steering wheel or gear stick and to include fabric seats.
Best luxury car: Tesla Model 3
- Price new from: £40,490
- Price used from: £37,000
Tesla is committed to eliminating leather from its cars, starting with the Model 3 and the Model Y which are both entirely leather-free. CEO, Elon Musk, has stated that other Tesla models will also be vegan-friendly in the future.
Tesla cars are some of the best fully-electric vehicles on the market. They do come with a hefty price tag but make an excellent choice if you can afford it.
Best cheap car: Nissan Leaf
- Price new from: £28,145
- Price used from: £5,500
The Nissan Leaf was one one of the first mainstream electric cars and has been around since 2012, which means that it’s a great option for anyone looking for an affordable used vegan car.
Whilst the high-spec Tekna models get leather as standard, the leather trim is an optional upgarde on all other models. This means that there are plenty of cheap, leather-free Nissan Leafs around should you wish to buy one.
Most stylish: BMW i3
- Price new from: £36,575
- Price used from: £11,000
The BMW i3 is a fully-electric car with great environmental credentials. The standard model comes with a leather-trimmed steering wheel, but BMW will happily switch that for you when you buy a new car.
If you’re looking for a second-hand model, you can order a plastic steering wheel and swap it over, although there is an argument that the leather one already exists. You wouldn’t be helping any animals by doing this, but if the thought of touching leather makes you feel icky, then this could be the solution.
Whilst no car is 100% vegan, it’s quite possiblty to find cars with vegan leather or fabric interiors. You should be able to specify this when you buy a new car. If you’re looking for a second-hand car then the lower level specifications are the least likely to include leather.
Electric vehicles are the most environmentally friendly cars, but they’re not for everyone. If you need to drive for more than a couple of hours without stopping, then consider a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) as the next best alternative.
If all you can afford right now is a petrol-powered car, then cars with smaller engines generally have lower emissions.