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November 30, 2009


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I'm mystified by your cost per year to drive a car numbers, which seem way high to me.

I calculate that my Honda CRV costs me $4100/yr to drive. My number includes purchase price, insurance, license, gas, service, and car washes, and I'm assuming I can sell it in 10 years for around $7000. I do have a short commute and I paid cash for the car, but I don't think that would make such a huge difference.

I agree with you about there being a huge inconvenience factor in using public transportation. Years ago I lived car-less in Seattle, a relatively geographically compact city with a supposedly awesome public transportation system. Getting anywhere was such an ordeal! Getting home from a party or an event was worse--because the buses helpfully stopped running at only 1 am. Even getting to work on time was iffy, due to the buses randomly running either late or early so you missed your transfer.

I remember almost missing my own qualifying exam because 2 scheduled buses mysteriously failed to appear in a row, making me over an hour late to school on that Monday morning.

I also remember being forced to "walk" 10 blocks uphill on crutches coming home from the university on a day that I'd broken my ankle--lucky me, because there was a system failure on all the electric buses up the hill where I lived that day (and they only had electric buses servicing that neighborhood).

Also, grocery shopping is insanely difficult if you're riding the bus.

Of course, it depends on the car you own. Our 12yo Chevy Cavalier hardly cost us anything. Now we have only one car and do quite well with it. It is a little inconvenient sometimes, but mostly it's fine. My husband works from home now, which helps with the convenience factor quite a bit, but there have been many years of our marriage where he took the bus, walked, rode his bike, or I dropped him off at work if I needed the car that day. It has saved us a ot of money. Also, because I stay home more when we only have one car, we save on other expenses as well. I'm not as tempted to grab lunch somewhere while I'm out gadding with the kids, for instance.

I see these car cost estimates a lot and they always seem way over estimated. In this example I think it is because they include depreciation. While a car loses market value via depreciation this does not come out of my pocket and I don't think it should be included. Not including depreciation or fuel I spent ~$2,500 in maintenance, insurance and registration for both my cars. This is an unusual year as I had to fix the front brakes on one car and replace plugs, wires and distributor caps otherwise you could reduce that by about $700.

If I add fuel to the equation then the total comes to $5,700 and again that is for both cars. For about 3 years my wife and I only had one car but had to get a second when we no longer worked in the same building.

MC --

Those aren't my costs -- they are from the article I quote. Click through if you want more details from the piece.

I think these estimates apply for maybe the first few years of a new car's life? If you plan to drive your car for 10-12 years, I doubt it is costing that much after the first five years.

One thing about the cost average for car ownership is that they do not discuss how long the owner will keep the car. If you are turning over your car every three or four years for a new one then these numbers are probably correct. If you keep your cars for 10-15 years then they are probably inaccurate.

Well in my town of 125,000 people, the public transportation system limits riders to trips on weekdays during the daytime. No way it would work for my family without at least one car.

Not an insightful comment- but it really depends on where you live. I've lived in Chicago, D.C., and San Fran and when I lived in those cities I never owned a car. Owning a car was not only expensive but also a hassle. If I needed a car, renting one was always a better option.

I now own two cars and couldnt live my life without one. Wish it werent true.

Zip cars are a really neat/new solution for those rare times you need a car in one of the major cities.

My wife and I have two cars. Due to our work locations and the nature of my job (local travel and customer visits), we have two cars. I'll admit that she works closer to her job and can probably car pool, but don't tell her I said that. :P

I second Beth and Tyler's comments. Some day, in a more ideal situation, I would like to live somewhere where it may not require me to have a car. Perhaps a bicycle or motorscooter will do.

For now, I plan on sticking with reliable, affordable cars, and driving them into the ground.

Maybe the prices quoted in the article take into account huge loans with tons of interest charges. I do not understand why they would take into account is that an out-of-pocket expense? Maybe that is their way of taking into account resell value?

Our fuel, insurance, maintenance, and annual fees come to less than $4,000 a year for two cars. Our annual cost of buying a car comes to about $2,000 a year for my car and $4,000 a year for my husband's...and that is if we own them for only 6 years. We plan to drive our cars for 7-8 years minimum.

I do not take into account depreciation or resell just seems easier to think of the car being worth $0...selling it for more than that is just a big bonus.

So our annual total cost of ownership is about $10,000 for two cars...I'm okay with that. :-)

If you don't drive a lot, an older car that "you know" is a viable option, low insurance costs, no depreciation and you could do most repairs and all maintenace yourself, makes it very cost effective. Rent a vehicle for long trips or as a replacement when a large/differnt vehicle is needed. Works great as a second car idea too....

Gotta agree with Tyler.. I've read about Zipcar and it seems to be a pretty good solution. Or just renting a car whenever you need it.

No, the majority of people need a car to commute and if you have multiple people commuting then it already does not make sense. Zipcars are not everywhere and you can't rely all of your transportation on them. It is not worth the hassle to get rid of the car, you can always just not use it if you don't want.

I think there's a huge difference between eliminating an EXTRA car and eliminating your ONLY car and some of the comments seem to glaze over that. I bike or ride the bus here in Indianapolis. It's pretty inconvenient I guess, but I am determined to avoid buying a second car.

It costs $1.75 for a one-way bus ticket. At that price, I barely break even compared to current gas prices, however the big savings come from not having to pay for insurance and the initial purchase price.

I also find the bus ride relaxing and the bike ride invigorating. Conversely, commuting by car in rush hour traffic is stressful. I give up an hour at home per day by not driving, but you can also multitask if you aren't driving so that gives you back some of your lost time.

Those cost figures from AAA are a little high but not that far from reality. I assume they are figuring that people will buy a new car and then drive it for 3-5 years. That will easily give you numbers in the $5k to $10k per year range. Of course if you buy a used car and drive it longer then you'll pay less on average even with higher repair bills.

My wife and I have 3 cars. Two we drive and one is a classic. We could make due with 1 driver pretty easily but it would be an inconvenience and we don't really pay that much for our cars. Probably $2-3k a year range for late model used (I drive a 2004 toyota right now).

For once I come out ahead living in NY! Although I count my city tax towards transportation and by that estimate I don't. Sigh.

After many years with just one car, my husband and I purchased a mid-sized gas scooter as our second vehicle. We get most of the convenience factors of two vehicles, at about half the cost. Motorcycles and scooters are much cheaper than cars and trucks to purchase, fuel, and insure. I'd highly recommend it, unless you live somewhere it snows/sleets frequently.

Public transportation is a viable option in some areas, not in others. I lived in a small resort town where the transit was far superior to any metro city I've lived in. It all depends on your needs and your city's transport options. It's worth consideration, though.

Jim's figures seem about right to me. It may be even less if you can deduct your car expenses from your taxes (I don't know the situation in the US).

I once came across an article that included a drill-down of car costs. I used it to make my own simulation for a small modest car (added below for your convenience). Note that this is the European situation, amounts in euros (for dollars, add 15-20%).

Buy a €6k 5-year old Toyota Yaris, drive for 8 more years, sell for €0k. Total costs over 8 years:

+ depreciation, opportunity cost: €6k @7% over 8 years = €10k (less with a loan!)
+ insurance (€250/y), road assistance (€100/y) * 8y = €2.5k
+ taxes: €300/y * 8y= €2.5k
+ maintenance, tires: €2-4k
+ fuel (6,000 miles/y) = €1k (expensive here)

TOTAL: €2.5k/y (= €1.5k fixed + fuel)

I live in Los Angeles and I'm car-free (and I have many friends who are also car-free). It's really not as difficult as everyone makes it out to seem. I do my grocery shopping by bus, or sometimes walk with a hand cart (I also do laundry this way). And it is not impossible or difficult, as a previous commenter contends.

My freedom is certainly not impaired or limited to a bus schedule, as I own a good commuter bike and can easily ride that to a pub or event or wherever and not have to pay to park it (parking rate in LA are ridiculous). I can go out at a moments notice, at any time, day or night. If someone's going to attack me on my bike, they're going to have to catch me first. (And before I get jumped on for riding a bike, yes, I do obey all traffic laws.)

I'm not a delinquent, unemployed, or poor, and I can certainly own a car if I choose, but it just seems like a waste to me. I don't think everyone has to live this way or should live this way, but I think those of you who simply can't conceive of not owning a car would find that it's a lot easier than you think if you tried it for a month. Sure, at first you have to do a lot of planning, but once you figure it out, you'll never want to own a car again. Of course, if you live in a rural area or more than 5 miles from a grocery store, etc., then this wouldn't be a plan for you. But many of us live a lot closer to our daily needs than we think.

At the very least, you could maybe not be so hostile to those of us that suggest it's a very pleasant way to live and a reasonable way to save money if you're in a situation to do so. (The money I "save" not owning a car goes towards airfare to visit relatives on the East Coast and vacations. The writer of this opinion says that owning a 2nd car is his reward for working hard. Can't other things, like vacations, etc., be your reward for working hard too?)

My husband and I have tried living the one-car lifestyle off and on; it really becomes a burden for us. He can't stand taking public transportation to work - it costs him MORE than the price of gas/insurance, and it can take up to 3 hours one-way.

I'm a stay-at-home mom currently, so I guess I don't NEED my own car, but I would go crazy if I couldn't leave the house during the winter. When the weather is warmer, I do try to walk (with a stroller) or bike (with a trailer) as much as I can.

I have always considered cars a financial ball and chain...a big pain in the a$$. I live and work in a downtown area and I still don't feel like I can give up my car because the bus service is pathetic, especially on nights and weekends when I would use it.

I would love to ditch my car....if only we had decent mass transit, I could. I think it's beyond ludicrous that there are only a handful of American cities where there is decent mass transit. Any city of 250,000 people or more should have a densely populated downtown core and convenient bus service, if nothing else.

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