Cover photo: Jedidiah Jordan/Pexels

Maintain and keep vehicles longer

Increasing the lifespan of vehicles through maintenance.

  • Transport
  • Fleet
  • Vehicle maintenance

Beyond their ‘use’ phase, vehicles generate environmental impact at their ‘production’ and ‘end-of-life’ phase. Reducing the number of vehicles purchased, by increasing their lifespan, is a way to reduce the climate impact of an organisation’s fleet.

Why is this important?

When considering the impact along the full life cycle (1) of a vehicle, both the ‘production’ and ‘end of life’ phases have important environmental impacts. According to the IPCC, manufacturing a medium-size passenger vehicle (including the end-of-life stage) emits 10 tCO2e for diesel or petrol cars, and 14 tCO2e for electric cars. For thermal vehicles manufacturing accounts for about 25% of the total lifecycle emissions. In contrast, for electric vehicles, this figure can reach up to 90% if the electricity mix during the use-phase is low-carbon. If the electricity is generated from coal, the manufacturing emissions contribute about 30% to the total lifecycle emissions of electric cars (2).

The current replacement standard in the aid and relief sector is typically 5 years or between 150,000 and 200,000 km, traditionally based on security and operational priorities. However, the improved efficiency of newer vehicles only outweighs the emissions from manufacturing a new vehicle after a certain number of kilometres driven. For example, according to IPCC data, the environmental benefits of replacing an average diesel car with a new model that achieves 30% better fuel efficiency could be realised after up to 188,000 kilometres. Yet, this is already the case after 76,000 km if it is replaced by an electric car in a country with an optimum energy-mix (2). Likewise, a Japanese study shows that increasing the lifespan of all vehicles in Japan market by 10%, would save up to 42MtCO2e per year (3).

Extending the use phase of vehicles, whilst taking into account security and other operational factors, is therefore an important strategy to reduce transport-related climate impacts.

What's the solution?

Keeping vehicles longer requires reliable and high-quality maintenance. Start with data collection on movement planning, maintenance follow-up, and the age of the fleet  to make informed decisions. Identify reliable maintenance providers and deploy quality preventive maintenance schemes. Ensure availability of quality spare parts. Promote Eco-driving to preserve the condition of the vehicles. Develop and endorse an updated fleet management policy that encourages the extension of vehicle life while ensuring security and safety.

Additional and complementary measures include the reduction of movements with improved planning, online meetings and trainings, or teleworking; optimisation of movement with increased occupancy rate and carpooling, choosing a low-carbon fleet, and garage waste management.

  • Point of attention

    Extending the lifespan of cars means keeping cars longer in good condition. The aim is not to prolong the use of over ageing, polluting, and unsafe vehicles. There is no one-size-fits-all universal age or kilometre limit . Therefore, the standard renewal policy of 5 years or 150,000 – 200,000 km deserves a thorough review in order to achieve a reduction of climate impacts.

    Extending vehicle lifespan implies more frequent maintenance, generating more workshop waste. As a result, vehicle life extension should be favored in localities where a satisfying garage waste management  is possible (capital cities, presence of international workshop with its own recycling services etc).

Key figures


Potential emission reduction per car by keeping it 10% longer (3).

10.8 tons CO2e

The production and end of life emissions of an average petrol or diesel vehicle. It is 14 tons CO2e for an electric vehicle (2).

18.1 years

Average lifespan of vehicles in western Europe, 28.4 years in Eastern Europe (4).

6.8 years

Average age of light vehicles in the humanitarian sector: 6.8 years (5).

Key actions

  • #1 Collect fleet data

    Improved data will help make informed decisions. Implement movement planning and collect data on car follow up: distance driven, number of passengers, maintenance planning and age of each vehicle.

  • #2 Identify reliable maintenance providers

    Use pre-approved maintenance providers, ensure they adhere to your organisations’ maintenance and vehicle care standards, e.g. by using original parts and consumables. Assess their capacity to deal with garage waste and to provide lubricants less impactful to the environment. When no satisfying local capacities exist, consider collaborating with other organisations to use their existing garage or set up a garage managed jointly.

  • #3 Implement and follow preventive maintenance plans

    Set and respect a maintenance schedule based on manufacturers recommendations and implement periodic vehicle checks. Ensure that tires are properly inflated, aligned, and rotated: that significantly extend their lifespan and improve fuel efficiency. This also reduces the risk of road traffic incidents and further wear on the vehicle.

  • #4 Ensure availability of quality spare parts

    Question and challenge suppliers on the availability of genuine spare parts and consumables. Counterfeit parts like brake pads, shoes or clutch plates not only lack durability and liability, but also may contain asbestos, and must be avoided. Try to negotiate a maximum number of years. Consider procuring second-hand spare parts very carefully, only where appropriate.

  • #5 Develop eco-driving

    Train drivers on eco-driving practices, and regularly implement refresher trainings. Share vehicle and fleet performance data with drivers to engage and motivate them. Eco-driving techniques reduce wear and tear on vehicles and contribute to extending their lifespan.

  • #6 Review/adapt your current replacement policies

    Question your current vehicles replacement standards, consider stabilising the total of number of vehicles despite growth of operations (“freeze assets policies”). Consider implementing different replacement standards depending on the (security) context, the type of usage and allow local fleet managers flexibility to go further.

To be considered

  • Potential co-benefits

    • Improved vehicle safety
    • Economic benefit: increased vehicle lifespan and good maintenance save money
  • Success conditions

    • Political will of the organisation to review fleet management practices
    • Increased attention to maintenance and care of assets
    • No compromise on vehicle robustness and safety
  • Prerequisites & specificities

    • Safety and security of the vehicle is ensured.
    • Acceptance from donors to change the asset management policy (some might demand the 5years-150 000km policy)
    • Analyse financial impact (cost of operating older vehicles or purchasing new ones, change fleet management KPIs that are often financially oriented…)
    • Availability of spare parts and technical maintenance skills
  • Potential risks

    • Increased repair and maintenance costs when maintaining an ageing fleet

Success stories

As of March 2024, we have not identified sector-related success stories. If you have implemented this in your organisation and would like to share your story, please contact Fleet Forum at or Climate Action Accelerator at

Tools and best practices

  • Fleet management training from Fleet Forum

    Fleet management training with focus on environment, safety and financial improvement, specifically designed for humanitarian and development organisations.

    Find out more
  • Fleet Forum tools on maintenance

    The Fleet Forum has developed different tools on vehicle maintenance, like templates, videos, good practices. Whilst some are publicly available, others are only for Fleet Forum members.

    Read here
  • Assessing the quality of maintenance: a tool from Fleet Forum

    Tool proposing quality standard for fleet maintenance services.

    Find out more
  • ESAT, the new Environment Self-Assessment Tool from the Fleet Forum, 2024

    This tool allows you to assess your organisation's approach to transport and fleet management from an environmental sustainability perspective against a number of recognised standards and requirements, including the DG ECHO Minimum Environmental Requirements and Recommendations (MERR)

    Read here
  • NITIFILTER, the oil filter that reduces 90% oil consumption (in French)

    A robust aluminium oil filter that recycles oil and reduces 90% of its consumption. The filter itself is reusable in another vehicle in case of end of life.

    Read more

To go further

  • Used vehicles and the environment, 2020

    United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report about 146 countries importing used vehicles. Proposed standards to regulate the trade of second-hand vehicles.

    Explore here
  • CO2 emissions from cars, 2018

    European decarbonisation of personal cars. Indicators show the progress has stalled and the trends are contrary to what is needed, with a specific section about vehicles lifespan.

    Read here
  • Framework analysing car lifetime effects on stock, flow, and carbon footprint, 2021

    How increasing the lifetime of new and used cars helps mitigating global warming. Extending 10% of used and new cars lifespan in Japan from 1990 to 2016 reduced their carbon footprint of 30.7 Mt CO2e.

    Explore here
  • Sustainable Fleet of International Organisations, 2020

    A research study conducted within the Fleet Forum suggests that reducing the age of the fleet has positive financial impacts beyond emission reduction.

    Read here
  • The facts on the ground: Evaluating humanitarian fleet management policies using simulation, 2021

    This study does not include environmental aspects, but it still concludes that the 5 years/150 000km threshold is not optimal financially for fleet turnover, and it suggests keeping cars longer.

    Explore here

This factsheet was prepared with the support from the Fleet Forum. Last updated 10 June 2024.

Share your success stories, suggestions, and comments with us!


(1) Joseph, S., Serstevens, S., Chandra Gowda, H. R., Besiou, M., Stumpf, J. Fleet Forum, ‘The Environmental Performance of EVs vs. ICEVs’. in, 2023, Available here. [Accessed 12 June 2024].

(2) Les chiffres utilisés dans les calculs du GIEC tiennent compte de 1,5 passager par véhicule : Figure 10.4, Jaramillo, P., S. Kahn Ribeiro, P. Newman, S. Dhar, O.E. Diemuodeke, T. Kajino, D.S. Lee, S.B. Nugroho, X. Ou, A. Hammer Strømman, J. Whitehead, 2022 : Transport. Dans IPCC, 2022 : Climate Change 2022 : Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution du groupe de travail III au sixième rapport d’évaluation du groupe d’experts intergouvernemental sur l’évolution du climat [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, R. Slade, A. Al Khourdajie, R. van Diemen, D. McCollum, M. Pathak, S. Some, P. Vyas, R. Fradera, M. Belkacemi, A. Hasija, G. Lisboa, S. Luz, J. Malley, (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK et New York, NY, USA. Available here [Accessed 3  July 2024].

(3) Nakamoto, Y, & S Kagawa, ‘A generalized framework for analyzing car lifetime effects on stock, flow, and carbon footprint’. in Journal of Industrial Ecology, 26, 2021, 433-44, Available here [Accessed 12 June 2024]

(4) Held, M, N Rosat, G Georges, H Pengg, & K Boulouchos, ‘Lifespans of passenger cars in Europe : empirical modelling of fleet turnover dynamics’. in European Transport Research Review, 13, 2021, Available here [Accessed 2  July 2024].

(5) Webinar : 2023 Benchmarking results’. in, 2023, Available here [Accessed 12 June 2024].

Cover photo: Jedidiah Jordan/Pexels