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Can you own a car and be a vegan?

Eliminating animal products from your diet is stressful enough, but trying to maintain vegan purity when purchasing a car can feel like an impossible task. Can it be achieved?

Can a vehicle ever be completely animal-free?

Can a vehicle ever be completely animal-free?

In honour of World Vegetarian Day, we’ve considered the problems vegetarians and vegans may face when buying and maintaining a car. Purchasing a car can be a daunting task if you’re environmentally conscious and against the use of animal by-products.

There are lots of things to consider, and some problems are easier to tackle than others. We hope our guide will help to ease the stress.


When you begin to understand that animal fats are used in the production of steel and rubber among many other components used in car manufacturing, you realise that it is currently almost impossible to buy a car that is 100% vegan friendly.

However, one model that does pretty well in meeting multiple vegan needs is the Renault Twizy – a 100% electric, eco-friendly vehicle. The interior is made from plastic rather than leather or cloth, and the lightweight steel chassis is encased in a plastic frame, meaning the steel use is kept to a minimum.

The Toyota Prius is also a good choice and gets Leonardo DiCaprio’s seal of approval. It’s a hybrid car, resulting in significantly lower emissions and it comes with the option of non-leather seats.

The BMW i3, dubbed the ‘greenest car in the world’, is probably the best option out there for vegans. It is fully electric, the standard model doesn’t have leather seats, and the car itself is 95% recyclable. The vegans salute you, BMW!


One of the major issues with cars lies within the interior. With many manufacturers offering what they term a ‘luxury’ leather look, the choice can be very limited.

Thankfully, some manufacturers can be very accommodating and will alter your interior upon request.

One alternative fabric choice is Alcantara – a faux suede material that is used in the fashion, aviation, interior design and automotive industries. Animal rights organisation PETA also considers Alcantara a cruelty-free option.

In addition to this, the company behind Alcantara is committed to economic, social and environmental sustainability so this material may be worth investigating. The material is also incredibly striking and versatile so you won’t be compromising on style in the pursuit of a clear conscience.

Singer Paul McCartney opted for a hybrid limo Lexus with relatively low emissions so he can keep his carbon footprint to a minimum. He also chose to have it specially upholstered in a non-leather material.

Steering wheel

Unfortunately, leather steering wheels are difficult to avoid with an increasing number of new cars being produced incorporating the material.

However, Toyota, Honda and Mercedes-Benz use synthetic wrapped steering wheels in some models so this could be worth checking out.

BMW offers an alcantara steering wheel as an optional extra on the M3 Saloon, the M3 Convertible, and the M3 Coupé.

If your desired car doesn’t have an option for a non-leather wheel, you may want to consider a wood rim wheel if touching the leather is unappealing.


Although this may not be so obvious, many tyres are created using stearic acid, which can be derived from animal grade products.

However, Michelin tyres only use vegetable/plant-based products so you might wish to consider them next time your tyres need an upgrade. Similarly, Kenda’s stearic acid is derived from refined tree oil.

Cleaning and freshness

Many chemical-heavy products on the market for cleaning your car and making it smell fragrant again contain animal by-products. However you can take it back to basics with some impressive results from household cupboard staples.

To make an animal friendly car wash cleaner, mix together half a cup of Borax with one teaspoon of any vegetable based soap and half a bucket of hot water. Sponge over the interior and leave to dry. The same can be done with the exterior – just remember to hose it off for a streak-free, shiny finish.

If your cloth seats need a freshen up, try sprinkling ground, dry green tea leaves on to the fabric. Leave for 10 minutes and vacuum away. Green tea helps to eliminate odours naturally so your cloth will smell fresh again.

If you’d rather purchase something, Astonish have lots of ethically created, vegan friendly products.

Alternatively, check out Dr Singha’s Feng Shui Spray which incorporates tea tree oil, eucalyptus, camphor and witch hazel.


Being on the road often means limited vegan and veggie options, so packed lunches and snacks are always a good idea.

Consider the following:

  • Homemade granola bars
  • Baked pitta bread and homemade hummus
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Homemade trail mix
  • Grapes

 Do the best you can

Living a completely vegan lifestyle is almost impossible in a world where things such as cars, computers and refrigerators are considered ‘essential’ items. Often the practise of veganism can only be taken as far as is ‘practically possible’.

Hopefully this survival guide shows you how to own and maintain a vehicle to the best of your vegan ability!

Are you a vegan? If you have any more tips on being a vegan car owner, let us know in the comments section below.

About the Author

Natalie Little

Staff writer at Arnold Clark