Vegan-friendly cars

Veganism is on the rise and car makers are well aware of it, with ever more cars catering for vegans. These are the best vegan-friendly cars

BuyaCar team
Aug 21, 2020

Embracing the vegan lifestyle? You'll be looking for a car that fits in with your requirements. While you rarely see a car that's marketed as vegan-friendly there are plenty of them around, and with veganism becoming increasingly widespread you can expect more and more manufacturers to begin producing cars with that label.

The most obvious road block for vegans looking to buy a car is leather, especially in those models considered to be more upmarket. Posh cars will often have leather seats, a dashboard swathed in leater, and a leather steering wheel. The full size Range Rover is one such example of a car that makes extensive use of leather as an interior material.

In most cases, the easiest way to avoid leather is to look at lower specification models. It's rare that an entry-level trim will feature considered luxuries such as leather, with cloth upholstery and plastic being more widely used. But you aren't entirely restricted to the cheapest end of the market. There are plenty of options available to you with vegan friendly credentials that will also deliver a high quality feel and exciting driving performance.

Read on for more details on vegan-friendly cars, and 10 of the best vegan-friendly options currently available, some of which come with some great used car deals right here on BuyaCar.

Are cars vegan-friendly?

Well, no. As it stands there is no such thing as an entirely vegan car - not even the cars on this list, and it's not just leather that's the problem. Media displays often found on dashboards contain liquid crystals that may be based on cholesterol taken from animals. The rubber and plastic used to make tyres may be vulcanised and toughened using tallow (mutton fat), and even the steel used for a car’s frame may have been lubricated with animal fat. 

In short, no car comes close to being entirely vegan-friendly but that's not the point, according to Dominika Piasecka a spokesperson for the Vegan Society. "The bottom line is that there’s no such thing as a 100% vegan car, unfortunately," says Piasecka. "The key with veganism is trying to do your best. It’s not possible to be 100% vegan in this imperfect world but we can avoid animal suffering as much as possible. Avoiding leather is a practical thing we can do while buying a car, while we can’t of course avoid tyres or steel."

When buying a new car, it’s easy to specify a non-leather interior but it's not always as easy when buying used, as not everything is labelled properly. Keep an eye out for the specific names of artificial leathers used by car makers, such as Artico with Mercedes and Sensatec with BMW. Also, look out for Alcantara. This is a type of man-made suede that is considered vegan-friendly.

If you're keen to try and find a car built by a vegan-friendly manufacturer, your options are likely to be extremely limited. As mentioned above, while entry-level trims are often bereft of leather, even cheaper models such as the Ford Fiesta will be offered with leather seats at the higher end of the range.

Vegan-friendly cars: a disclaimer

As mentioned above by the Vegan Society, there is no such thing as a fully a vegan car. The cars on this list are just some of the most vegan-friendly models on the market.

The best vegan-friendly cars

1. Polestar 2

Best vegan-friendly car for eco-conscious buyers

The Polestar 2 is aiming to bring electric motoring and cruelty-free interiors to the masses.

Polestar is the electric sub-brand of Volvo, and its ‘2’ goes toe to toe with the Tesla Model 3 - so it’s electrically powered with a 275-mile range.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has even awarded Polestar with a Compassionate Business Award because of the car’s vegan-friendly interiors. According to Polestar bosses, the car’s interior will help accelerate the shift of the car industry towards leather-free interiors. Vegan interior components include the seat covers, steering wheel, gear shift and interior coatings.

2. Renault Twizy

Best vegan-friendly car for tight parking spots

Used deals Limited stock

The Renault Twizy is one of the most fun ways to zip around a city, and it's also one the most striking looking vehicles around. It’s electrically powered, so offers zero-emission driving, and is so small that it can be parked head on to the kerb like the Smart ForTwo on busy streets.

It may only have seating for two (one in front of the other), but it is one of the most vegan-friendly motors on sale, as it doesn’t have leather seats and the whole vehicle is 85% recyclable.

3. Ford Fiesta

Best vegan-friendly car for small families

Used deals from £7,999
Monthly finance from £135

Ford’s Fiesta is the best-selling car in the UK, and is also massively popular throughout Europe. The success is no accident either, as it combines comfort, value for money, and performance in a neatly proportioned package, with a huge variety of engine and interior choices.

The latest model, which went on sale in 2017, has plenty of options for non-leather seats too. You’ll have to opt for a Style, Zetec, or B&O Play Zetec model to fully avoid leather seats though. All Fiestas, apart from entry-level Style models have leather steering wheels as standard, too, but these can be swapped for non-leather materials on request.

Used buyers will need to ensure the car they're looking at is free of leather before making the purchase, or they may be able to have leather-trimmed steering wheels replaced by a Ford dealership at a later date.

FORD FIESTA BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Volkswagen Golf

Best vegan-friendly car for medium-sized families

Used deals from £6,899
Monthly finance from £135

It’s comfortable, it’s well made and it’s...very sensible. But sensible sells. The Golf is a solid car that is economical and robust, plus it has plenty of engine choices. Used values are strong too, which makes car finance deals cheap. Especially if you finance a second-hand model in the first place.

If you want the most vegan-friendly Golf you'll have to stick to entry-level S trim, as this is the only specification that does without a leather steering wheel and gearstick and includes standard fabric seats. It's still a very usable car, and one of the very best hatchbacks you can buy regardless of trim level. 

Higher specification models will of course bring more tech and media equipment, but they will come with a leather steering wheel and gear knob.

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Mercedes A-Class

Best vegan-friendly car for high-tech interior

Used deals from £17,399
Monthly finance from £233

The latest A-Class may be the cheapest car in Mercedes’ range, but it’s still brimming with useful technology. Inside there are gadgets to rival the firm's high-end luxury cars - provided you spend a little extra on optional kit such as augmented reality sat-nav that displays directions over images of the road ahead - though all A-Class models get sophisticated voice recognition software that really does work, letting you set the sat-nav directions easily, just using voice commands.

You can either specify fabric seats, or Mercedes’ artificial leather called Artico. The steering wheel is covered in real leather, however, and be aware that real leather is an option for the seats, so if buying used, make sure you know what is fitted to the model you buy.

It's impossible to get a leather free A-Class, but at least Mercedes has made some form of effort.

MERCEDES A-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Toyota Prius

Best vegan-friendly car for hybrid motoring

Used deals Limited stock

If it’s good enough for Leonardo DiCaprio, it’s good enough for us. The Prius kicked-off the hybrid car phenomenon, ushering in a new-age of eco-friendly taxi drivers. It’s remarkably reliable too, although, not the most sporting drive around.

Base-spec Prius’ come with cloth seats, but even plus plusher cars skip leather in favour of cloth as well. Word of warning though - top spec Excel models can only be had with leather seats and all new models come with a leather steering wheel.

TOYOTA PRIUS BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Nissan Leaf

Best vegan-friendly car for zero-emission driving

Used deals from £17,695
Monthly finance from £264

The Nissan Leaf is the best-selling electric car in Europe. It’s also the best electric family car that most families can afford. It has a range of around 170 miles, is quiet and comfortable, plus being electric means it’s surprisingly fast.

The Leaf can be specified without leather seats, steering wheel, and gearshift (mostly because the gearshift is a plastic switch) which is great for vegans. It should be noted that top-spec Tekna models do get leather as standard though. Once again, if you're looking at a used Leaf, you'll want to be clear the model is leather-free before purchasing.

NISSAN LEAF BUYERS' GUIDE

8. BMW i3

Best vegan-friendly car for design

Used deals from £12,890
Monthly finance from £238

The BMW i3 is an electric car, which uses some of the most eco-friendly materials on the car market today. It's made largely from carbon fibre, rather than steel and is 95% recyclable, according to BMW.

Some of the wood used on the dashboard comes from trees that are grown in monsoon season, so that they don’t take away space from growing plants to eat. Interior options include cloth upholstery, as well as BMW’s artificial leather called Sensatec. Sadly, a non-leather steering wheel isn't yet available, though the i3 is still one of the most planet and animal-friendly cars around.

It's a realistic option for most drivers, thanks to the real-world range of around 150 miles between charges offered by the version with the largest battery (known as 94Ah). It's also available in range-extender (ReX) form which has a small petrol engine as well, which can charge the car up on the move

BMW i3 BUYERS' GUIDE

9. Range Rover Velar

Best vegan-friendly car for off-roading pretences

Used deals from £33,777
Monthly finance from £551

This is probably the most fashionable car on the list, and would match nicely with any Gucci faux-leather handbag. The Velar is an off-roader for town, it's larger than the Range Rover Evoque, but not as big as the Range Rover Sport.

The Velar shows that car manufacturers are changing their ways when it comes to leather. No longer are non-leather interiors the reserve of bargain basement models, with the option of Range Rover's Premium Textile fabric. Its appeal will depend on your view on wool, as the fabric is a wool and polyester blend.

Go for the Premium Textile Pack and you get wool and artificial suede seats, artificial leather across the dashboard and an artificial suede steering wheel, all of which contribute to the car's vegan-friendly credentials.

RANGE ROVER VELAR BUYERS' GUIDE

10. Tesla Model S

Best vegan-friendly car for speed

Tesla’s electric cars are known for their long range (up to 393 miles) and their lightning-fast acceleration (0-60mph in 2.5 seconds), making them some of the most enticing electric cars whether you enjoy driving or simply don't enjoy charging. However, the Model S is a sound choice even if the car's vegan credentials are most important to you; the headline ‘All of Tesla’s seat options are vegan’ is certainly attention grabbing.

In short, Tesla no longer sells new cars with leather seats, a huge win for vegans. They all come with synthetic leather now, although leather steering wheels remain standard. Tesla will fit a non-leather steering wheel on request though.

TESLA BUYERS' GUIDES

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