To have a car or not to have a car: That is the question. So what’s the answer? For me, it’s the option to give up the excess baggage of a heavy piece of metal and go for the lightweight version. There are many factors that go into the decision to no longer own a car. Some of these include costs such as saving money on insurance and paying for and fixing things that go wrong, not having to spend valued dollars on upkeep, and having available means of public transportation. It also helps to live in an area where everything you need is located within a few miles of your residence. Here are some of the factors that I considered and that would be a good idea to look into before making a decision to give up one’s auto.
Excess baggage. Cars, vans and trucks weigh alot. Not only in terms of their actual pounds or kilograms, but in the amount of room needed to store them. When you own an automobile, you have all of this metal and all of these parts that need to be put somewhere. You can’t just hang them in the air, as we don’t have hovercrafts available yet. Autos actually have to go into a parking space or garage. For those that live in major metropolitan cities especially, finding somewhere to store a car is nightmare, yet alone an SUV or minivan! Storage costs for parking garages can be in the hundreds of dollars per month. Even if you live in a relatively small city, you’re still going to run into having to pay for parking in many spots to visit downtown areas. And if you decide to move, wow, the excessive baggage tolls start to add up! You’ll have to drive that car to wherever you decide to relocate. If you’re going from Washington, DC to California, the gas expense alone will cost you lots of extra bucks.
Insurance Costs. Insurance can be costly. Not everyone falls in the low risk category and can find automobile insurance for $500 or less per year. Even with good driver or reach accident free status over a number of years, it’s a pretty penny that one will spend on car insurance. Think about how this can increase when you get into an accident or have points accrue on your license for getting at ticket! The average driver in Washington, DC will spend over $2k for car insurance in 2014, with the average Virginia driver spending over $1k (according to an MSN article with source shown below).
Broken Down Vehicles. Noone likes a car or truck that is sitting in the driveway because it can’t be used. Perhaps your transmission went bad or you need a new timing belt. It might be the smallest thing that’s just going to cost $1000 to fix! My heater core sprung a leak, and it’s going to cost over one grand to fix. I somehow managed to own one of those cars that you have to tear apart the whole dashboard to reach the heater core. Even though the car is still somewhat driveable for short distances, if it sits in traffic it overheats, and if I drive more than a couple of miles the antifreeze fills the car chamber and fogs up the windshield with its mist. A car that isn’t running is wasting your personal energy. Why? Because you are spending money each day on insurance evening though the car isn’t being used. And this is money that has to come from somewhere and could be spent on more valuable things.
Upkeep, Ugh! The upkeep on a truck or car can break you. Think about all of the oil changes you get in a year, especially if you’re on of those commuting each day to work and racking up the miles! Also, Vehicle Emissions Inspections cost money. If your vehicle doesn’t pass, you either have to get the faulty part fixed or spend a minimum amount on the car in emissions related work to get a waiver. I know I have spent personally an average of $150 to $200 per year on oil changes, and with my older car, about $600 annually on upkeep or emissions related work to get a waiver. In Maryland in 2014, you must spend $450 in emissions related repairs to get a waiver, according to the MVA’s website (with source listed below).
Easier Ways to Get To and Fro. In metropolitan areas, often you can find other ways to reach destinations. In the Washington, DC area where I live there are many safe transportation options. The Metro Transit System has metro lines and buses. The Metro has a few different lines that run between various smaller cities and suburbs and take you to hot spots in Washington, DC and points nearby. So, if you live somewhere like Falls Church, VA and want to visit the Smithsonian, there are metro locations both places to take you back and forth. The hours of the metro have lots of flexibility, starting early in the morning and going until midnight on weekdays and later on the weekends. There are also buses that go out to further reaches of the area, such as ones that go to Dulles Airport and to areas in Herndon and Reston. I’ve needed to get to Herndon myself a few times, and have been able to take a combination of the Metro and buses to access the area.
Foot Pedalin’ It and Cycling. I’m not saying that I’m going to go off into the mountains and walk everywhere like they did in The Sound of Music, leaving their car behind. I mean, they had no choice since the militant government was chasing them. I mean that in the Washington, DC area things are close enough to walk around. Grocery stores can be found every mile or two, restaurants abound, and pharmacies and corner stores are on almost every few blocks. Years ago, there were no planes, trains or automobiles, so people walked for miles without even having shoes! They walked to school, they walked to work, etc. It would be a bit more strenuous, but for me walking will help keep me in shape and motivated, and will save even more money that can be used for something else. What’s really nice about walking is that you actually pass people on the way and get to say a friendly hello to them. Riding a bike is a second alternative that uses energy and helps me to stay in shape. There are many bike friendly trails in Arlington, Alexandria and Washington, DC. You can even find trails that cross waterways on the bridges! I’ve come to quite enjoy riding my bike, and I can take small amounts of things with me in a backpack or bag that fits right onto the bicycle.
Rental Cars. It’s pretty easy to rent a car these days if you’re over 25. Many different rental car companies set up camp in metropolitan areas like Washington, DC, and companies like Enterprise Rental Car will even come to your location and pick you up for no additional charge. It’s easy to find specials on auto rentals, even if you’re looking to book a mini van or SUV. Renting a vehicle can cost as low as $20 per day if you can find an online special.
Although there were lots of things to consider, for me it was a no brainer to make a decision to give up my automobile. The extra costs spent on insurance and upkeep can be used for fun activities like travel and visiting Washington DC’s museums and historic spots. Even though there are costs to take the metro and buses, these are much less than the costs of upkeep on a car and insurance. The greatest part about it is that it forces me to walk or ride my bicycle sometimes. This helps motivate me to stay in shape and fit, when I might otherwise have been lazy and just have driven short distances.
Sources: “How Expensive Is Your State for Car Insurance?” MSN Article, February 26, 2014. http://money.msn.com/auto-insurance/article.aspx?post=43836f9a-d8d2-42d4-b246-ea5304d9dbf9.
MVA Website, 2014, http://www.mva.maryland.gov/About-MVA/INFO/58000VEI/58000-07T.htm.